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P. G. WODEHOUSE 


l^eave it to 
"Psmith 


PENGUIN BOOKS 


MKLBOURN’E • LONDOK • BAETIMORS 


Fir\^ published 192.5 


To my daughter 
LL^ONOR V 
Qu CXI ot her Species 


Made and printed in C 7 t eat Britain 
for Pentium Book-s L^td^ f far ei/ondj north, Afidd'ese:^ 
by ii^yman vjr Sons JL,tdy Lsonaon, Heading 
and Fahenham 



(Contents 

\ Dark PlottiMgs at B/a/iau/gs Castle 7 

2 Enter P smith 3 3 

3 Eve Porrows an Umbrella 5 o 

4 Painful Scene at the Drones Club 5 6 

5 Psmith ^Applies for Employment 60 

6 Eord Emsu’or/h Afeets a Poet 68 

7 Ba,\:ter Suspects 94 

8 Confidences on the 1 ake 1 1 5 

9 Psmith Engages a U'alet 140 

10 Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Peading 172 

1 1 Almost Entire^ About Floiver-pots zoo 

1 2 Aiore on the Flower-pot Theme 225 

1 3 Psmith Receives Guests 235 

14 Psmith Accepts Employment 261 




CHAPTER I 


^ark Clottings at ^Blandings Castle 


A t the open window of the great library of Blandings 
Castle, drooping like a wet sock, as was his habit when 
he had nothing to prop his spine against, the Earl of Ems- 
worth, that amiable and boneheaded peer, stood gazing out 
over his domain. 

It was a lovely morning and the ait was fragrant with gentle 
summer scents. Yet in his lordship’s pale blue e3'es there was 
a look of melancholy. His brow was furrowed, his mouth 
peevish. And this was all the mote strange in that he was nor- 
mally as happy as only a fluffy-minded man with excellent 
health and a large income can be. A writer, describing Bland- 
ings Castle in a magazine article, had once said: ^Tiny mosses 
have grown in the cavities of the stones, until, viewed near at 
hand, the place seems shaggy with vegetation.’ It would not 
have been a bad description of the proprietor. Fifty^-odd years 
of serene and unruffled placidity had given Lord Emsworth 
a curiously moss-covered look. Very fe\v things had the power 
to disturb him. Even his younger son, the Hon, Freddie 
Threepwood, could only do it occasionally. 

Yet now he was sad. And - not to make a m\^tery of it any 
longer - the reason of his sorrow was the fact that he had mis- 
laid his glasses and without them was as blind, to use his own 
neat simile, as a bat. He was keenly aware of the sunshine that 
poured down on his gardens, and was yearning to pop out and 
potter among the flowers he loved. But no man, pop he never 
so wisely, can hope to potter with any good result if the world 
is a mere blur. 

The door behind him opened, and Beach the butler entered, 
a dignified procession of one. 



8 


Leave it to P smith 


^ Who’s that?’ inquired Lord Emsworth, spinning oil 
axis. 

'It is I, your lordship - Beach* 

'Have you found them?’ 

'Not yet, your lordship,* sighed the butler. 

'You can’t have looked.* 

'I have searched assiduously, your lordship, but without 
avail. Thomas and Charles also announce non-success. Stokes 
has not vet made his report, ’ 

'Ahr' 

'I am re-despatching Thomas and Charles to your lordship’s 
bedroom,’ said the Master of the Hunt. 'I trust that their 
efforts will be rewarded.* 

Beach withdrew, and Lord Ems^worth turned to the window 
again. The scene that spread itself beneath him - though he 
was unfortunately not able to see it - was a singularly beautiful 
one, for the castle, which is one of the oldest inhabited houses 
in England, stands upon a knoll of rising ground at the 
southern end of the celebrated Vale of Blandings in tlie county 
of Shropshire. Away in the blue distance wooded hills ran 
down to where the Severn gleamed like an unsheathed sword ; 
while up from the river rolling park-land, mounting and dip- 
ping, surged in a green wave almost to the castle walls, break- 
ing on the terraces in a many-coloured flurry of flowers as it 
reached the spdt where the province of Angus McAllister, his 
lordship’s head gardener, began. The day being June the thir- 
tieth, which is the very high-tide time of summer flowers, the 
immediate neighbourhood of the castle was ablaze with roses, 
pinks, pansies, carnations, hollyhocks, columbines, larkspurs, 
London pride, Canterbury bells, and a multitude of other 
choice blooms of which only Angus could have told you the 
names. A conscientious man was Angus ; and in spite of being 
a good deal hampered by Lord Emsworth’s amateur assist- 
ance, he showed excellent results in his department. In his beds 
there was much at which to point with pride, little to view 
with concern. 

Scarcely had Beach removed himself when Lord Emsworth 



Dark 'Plottings at Blandings Castle 9 

was called upon to turn again. The door had opened for the 
second time, and a young man in a bcautifuliy-cut suit of grey 
flannel was standing in the doorway. He had a long and vacant 
face topped by shining hair brushed back and heavily brilliant- 
ined after the prevailing mode, and he was standing on one 
leg. For Freddie Threepwood was seldom completely at his 
ease in his parent’s presence. 

* Hullo, guv’nor.’ 

‘>0vcll, Frederick?’ 

It would be paltering with the truth to say that Lord Ems- 
worth’s greeting was a warm one. It lacked the note of true 
affection. A few weeks before he had had to pay a matter of 
five hundred pounds to settle certain racing debts for his off- 
spring ; and, while this had not actually dealt an irretrievable 
blow at his bank account, it had undeniably tended to diminish 
Freddie’s charm in his eyes. 

‘Hear you’ve lost your glasses, guv’nor/ 

‘ That is so/ 

‘Nuisance, what?’ 

‘ Undeniably,’ 

‘ Ought to have a spare pair/ 

‘I have broken my spare pair.’ 

‘Tough luck I And lost the other?’ 

‘ And, as you say, lost the other/ 

‘ Have you looked for the bally things? 

‘I have/ 

‘ Must be somewhere, I mean. 

‘ Quite possibly.’ 

‘Where,’ asked Freddie, warming to his work, ‘did you see 
them last?’ 

‘Go away I’ said Lord Emsworth, on whom his child’s con- 
versation had begun to exercise an oppressive effect, 

‘Eh?’ 

‘Go away!’ 

‘Go away?’ 

‘Yes, go awayl’ 

‘Right hoi’ 



lo Leatfe it to ^ smith 

The door closed. His lordship returned to the window once 
more. 

He had been standing there some few minutes when one of 
those miracles occurred which happen in libraries. Without 
sound or warning a section of books started to move away 
from the parent body and, swinging out in a solid chunk into 
the room, showed a glimpse of a small, study-like apartment. 
A young man in spectacles came noiselessly through and the 
books returned to their place. 

The contrast between Lord Emsworth and the ncw-comer, 
as they stood there, was striking, almost dramatic. Lord Ems- 
worth was so acutely spectacle less ; Rupert Baxter, his secre- 
tary, so pronouncedly spectacled. It was his spectacles that 
struck you first as you saw the man. They gleamed c^fiiciently 
at you. If you had a guilty conscience, they pierced you 
through and through ; and even if your conscience was one 
hundred pet cent pure you could not ignore them* ‘ Here,* you 
said to yourself, ‘is an efficient young man in spectacles/ 

In describing Rupert Baxter as elficicnt, you did not over- 
estimate him. 1 le was essentially that. Technically but a salaried 
subordinate, he had become by degrees, owing to the limp 
amiability of his employer, the real master of the house. He 
was the Brains of Blandings, the man at the switch, the person 
in charge, and the pilot, so to speak, who weathered the storm. 
Lord Emsworth left everything to Baxter, only asking to be 
allowed to potter in peace ; and Baxter, more than equal to the 
task, shouldered it without wincing. 

Having got within range, Baxter coughed; and Lord Erns- 
worth, recogni 2 ing the sound, wheeled rr>and with a fat i it 
flicker of hope. It might be that even this apparently insoluble 
problem of the missing pince-nez would yield before the 
other's efficiency. 

‘Baxter, my dear fellow, Fve lost my glasses. My glasses. 
I have mislaid them. I cannot think where they can have gone 
to. You haven’t seen them anyufficre by any cliancc?" 

* Yes, Lord Emsworth,’ replied the secretary, quietly equal 
to the crisis. ‘ They are hanging down your back/ 



Dark PloUings at ^landings Castle 1 1 

*Down my back? Why, bless my soul!’ His lordship tested 
the statement and found it - like all Baxter’s statements - ac- 
curate. ‘Why, bless my soul, so they are! Do you know, Bax- 
ter, I really believe I must be growing absent-minded.’ He 
liauled in the slack, secured the pince-nez, adjusted them 
beamingly. 11 is irritability had vanished like the dew off one 
of liis roses, ‘Thank ycu, Baxter, thank you. You are in- 
valuable.’ 

And with a radiant smile Lord Emsworth made buoyantly 
for the door, en route for God’s air and the society of McAllis- 
ter. The movement drew from Baxter another cough - a sharp, 
peremptort^ cough this time; and his lordship paused, reluc- 
tantly, like a dog whistled back from the chase. A cloud fell 
over the sunnincss of his mood. Admirable as Baxter was in 
so many respects, he had a tendency to worry' him at times; 
and something told Lord Emsworth that he was going to 
worry him aiow. 

‘The car wdll be at the door,’ said Baxter with quiet firm- 
ness, ‘at two sharp,’ 

‘(’ar? What car?’ 

‘I’hc car to take you to the station.' 

‘Station? What station?’ 

Rupert Baxter preserved his calm. There were times when 
he found his employer a little trying, but he never shouted it. 

‘\'ou have perhaps forgotten, L<^rd Emsworth, tnat you 
arranged with Lady Constance to go to London this after- 
noon.’ 

‘Go to London!’ gasped Lord Emsworth, appalled. ‘In 
weather like this? With a thousand things to attend to in the 
garden? What a perfectly preposterous notion! Why should I 
go to L.ondtm? 1 hate l.ondon.’ 

‘You arranged with Lady Constance that you would give 
Mr McTodd lunch to-morrow at your club,’ 

‘Who the devil is Mr McTodd?’ 

‘The well-known Canadian poet.’ 

‘ Never heard of him.’ 

‘ Lady Constance has long been a great admirer of his w^ork. 



12 


Leave it to Psmith 


She wrote inviting him, should he ever come to England, to 
pay a visit to Blandings. He is now in London and is to 
come down to-morrow for two weeks. Lady Constance's 
suggestion was that, as a compliment to Mr McTodd's 
eminence in the world of literature, you should meet him in 
London and bring hiixi back here yourself.' 

Lord Emsw’orth remembered now. He also remembered 
that this positively infernal scheme had not been his sister 
Constance’s in the first place. It was Baxter who had made the 
suggestion, and Constance had approved. He made use of the 
recovered pincc-ne2 to glower through them at his secretary ; 
and not for the first time in recent months was aware a 
feeling that this fellow Baxter was becoming a dashed inflic- 
tion. Baxter was getting above liimself, th towing his weight 
about, making himself a confounded nuisance. He wished he 
could get rid of the man. But w^herc could he find an adequate 
successor? That was the trouble. With all his drawbacks, Bax- 
ter was efficient. Nevertheless, for a moment Lord Ems worth 
toyed with the pleasant dream of dismissing him. And it is 
possible, such was his exasperation, that he might on this 
occasion have done something practical in that direction, had 
not the library door at this moment opened for the third time, 
to admit yet another intruder - at the sight of whom his lord- 
ship's militant mood faded weakly. 

‘Oh - hallo, Connie!' he said, guiltily, like a small boy 
caught in the jam cupboard. Somehow his sister always had 
this effect upon him. 

Of all those who had entered the library that morning the 
new arrival was the best worth looking at. Lord Ems worth 
was tall and lean and scragg}^; Rupert Baxter thick- set and 
handicapped by that vaguely grubby appearance which is pre- 
sented by swarthy young men of bad complexion ; and even 
Beach, though dignified, and Freddie, though slim, would never 
have got far in a beauty competition. But Lady Constance 
Keebic really took the eye. She was a strikingly handsome 
woman in the middle forties. She had a fair, broad brow, 
teeth of a perfect even whiteness, and the carriage of an cm- 



Dark 'Plottings at ^landings Castle 13 

press. Her eyes were large and grey, and gentle - and incident- 
ally misleading, for gentle was hardly the adjective which 
anybody who knew her would have applied to Lady Con- 
stance. Though genial enough when she got her way, on the 
rare occasions when people attempted to thwart her she was 
apt to comport herself in a manner reminiscent of Cleopatra 
on one of the lattcr^s bad mornings. 

hope I am not disturbing you/ said Lady Constance with 
a bright smile, ‘I just came in to tell you to be sure not to 
forget, Clarence, that you are going to London tliis afternoon 
to meet Mr McTodd/ 

‘I was just telling Lord Emswortli/ said Baxter, *that the 
car would be at the door at two."" 

‘Thank you, Mr Baxter. Of course I might have known 
that you would not forget. You arc so wonderfully capable. 
I don’t know what in the world wc would do without 
you.’ 

The ELfficient Baxter bowed. But, though gratified, he was 
not overwhelmed by the tribute. The same thought had often 
occurred to him independently. 

‘If you will excuse me,’ he said, ‘I bave one or two things 
to attend to ’ 

‘Certainly, Mr Baxter/ 

The Edicient One withdrew through the door in the book- 
shelf. He realii'.ed that his emnlo^’cr was in fractious mood, 
but knew that he was leaving him in capable hands. 

J.ord Ems worth turned from the window, out of which he 
had been gazing with a plantive detachment. 

‘ Look here, Connie/ he grumbled feebly. ‘You know 1 hate 
literary fellows. It’s bad enough having them in the house, but 
when it comes to going to London to fetch ’em . . .* 

He shuffled morosely. It was a perpetual grievance of his, 
this practice of bis sister’s of collecting literary celebrities and 
dumping them down in the home for indeterminate visits. 
You never knew when she was going to spring another on 
you. Already since the beginning of the year he had suffered 
from a round dozen of the species at brief intervals ; and at 



14 


Leave H to L smith 


this very moment his life was being poisoned by the fact that 
Blandings was sheltering a certain Miss Ailcen Peavey, the 
mere thought of whom was enough to turn the sunshine off 
as with a tap. 

‘ Can't stand literary fellows/ proceeded his lordship. 
* Never could. And> by Jove, literary females are v/orse. Miss 
Peavey . . . ’ Here words temporarily failed the owner of 
Blandings, ‘Miss Peavey he resumed after an eloquent 
pause, 'Who /j- Miss Peavey?’ 

‘ My dear Clarence/ replied Lady Constance tolerantly, for 
the fine morning had made her mild and amiable, ‘if you do 
not know that Aiicen is one of the leading poetesses of the 
younger school, you must be very ignorant/ 

‘I don’t mean that. 1 know she writes poetry, I mean who 
i: she? You suddenly produced her here like a rabbit out of a 
hat/ said his lordship, in a tone of strong resentment. ‘Where 
did you iind her?’ 

‘ 1 first made Aiken’s acquaintance on an Atlantic liner w^hen 
Joe and I were cf>ming back frrim our trip round the w^’orid. 
She was very kind to me when T was feeling the motion of the 
vessel. , . . If you mean what is her famiiv, I think Ailcen told 
me once that she was connected with the Rutlandshire 
peavey s/ 

'Never heard of them!^ snapped Lord Emsw^irth. ‘And if 
they’re anything like Miss Peavey, (jod help Rutlandshire!’ 

Tranquil as Lady Constance’s mood was this morning, an 
ominous stoniness came into her g^cy eyes at these words, and 
there is little doubt that in another instant she would have dis- 
charged at her mutinous brother one those shattering come- 
backs for which she had been celebrated in the family from 
nursery days onward; but at this juncture the Efficient Baxter 
appeared again through the bookshelf. 

‘ Excuse me/ said Baxter, securing attention with a flash of 
his spectacles. ‘I forgot to mention, Lord Ems worth, that, to 
suit everybody’s convenience, 1 have arranged that Mis? Halli- 
day shall call to see you at your club to-morrow after lunch/ 

‘Good Lord, Baxter! ’ The harassed peer started as if he had 



Dark Clottings at ^landings Castle 1 5 

been bitten in the leg. ^ Who’s Miss Halliday? Not another 
literary female?’ 

*Miss Halliday is the young lady who is coming to Bland- 
ings to catalogue the library/ 

* Catalogue the library? What does it want cataloguing 
for?’ 

‘It has not been done ^'ince the year 1885/ 

‘ Weil, and look how splendidly we’ve got along without it/ 
said Lord Hms worth acutely. 

‘Don’t be so ridiculous, Clarence/ said Lady Constance, 
annoyed. ‘ The catalogue of a great library like this must be 
brought up to date.’ She moved to the door. ‘ I do wish you 
would tty to w^ake up and take an interest in tilings. If it 
wasn’t for Mr Baxter, I don’t know what would happen.’ 

And with a beaming glance of approval at her ally she left 
the room. Baxter, coldly austere, returned to the subject under 
discussion. 

‘1 have written to Miss Halliday suggesting tu^o-thirty as a 
suitable hour for the interview.’ 

‘ But loc»k here . . .* 

‘You will wish to see her before definitely confirming the 
engagement.’ 

‘ Yes, but look here, I \\ ish you wouldn’t go tying me up 
with all these appointments.’ 

‘I thought that as you were going to London to meet 
Mr McTodd . . 

‘But I’m not going to London to meet Mr McTodd,’ cried 
Lord Emsworih with weak fury. ‘ItY out of the question. I 
can’t possibly leave Blandings, The weather may brcck at any 
moment. I don’t want to mtss a day of it.’ 

‘ The arrangements are all made.’ 

‘Send the fellow a wire . . . unavoidably detained”/ 

‘I could not take the responsibility for such a course my- 
self/ said Baxter coldl)^ ‘But possibly if you were to make the 
suggestion to Lady Constance . . 

‘Oh, dash it!’ said Lord Emswotth unhappily, at once 
realizing the impossibility of the scheme. ‘Oh, well, if I’ve 



1 6 Leave it to P smith 

got to go, Tve got to go,’ he said after a gloomy pause. * But 
to leave my garden and stew in London at this time of the 
year . . 

There seemed nothing further to say on the subject. He took 
off his glasses, polished them, put them on again, and shuffled 
to the door. After all, he reflected, even though the car was 
comihg for him at two, at least he had the morning, and he 
proposed to make the most of it. But his first careless rapture 
at the prospect of pottering among his flowers was dimmed, 
and would not be recaptured. He did not entertain any project 
so mad as the idea of defying his sister Constance, but he felt 
extremely bitter about the whole affair. Confound Constance? 
. . . Dash Baxter! . . . Miss Peavey , . . 

The door closed behind Lord Emsworth. 

ir 

Lady Constance mean’while, proceeding downstairs, had 
reached the big hall, when the door of the smoking-room 
opened and a head popped out. A round, grizzled head with 
a healthy pink face attached to it. 

‘Connie!’ said the head. 

Lady Constance halted. 

*Yes, Joel’ 

‘ Come in here a minute,’ said the head, * Want to speak to 
you,’ 

Lady Constance w'ent into the smoking-room. It was large 
and cosily book-lined, and its window looked out on to an 
Italian garden. A wide fire-place f>ccupicd nearly the whole of 
one side o( it, and in front of this, his legs spread to an in- 
visible blaze, Mr Joseph Keeblc had already taken his stand. 
His manner w^as bluff, hut an acute observer might have de- 
tected embarrassment in it. 

‘What is it, Joe?’ asked Lady Constance, and smiled pleas- 
antly at her husband. W^hen, two years previously, she had 
married this elderly widow’cr, of whom the world knew 
nothing beyond the fact that he had amassed a large fortune 
in South African diamond mines, there^Had not been wanting 



Dark Plo/ tings at Blandings Castle 17 

cynics to set the match down as one of convenience, a purely 
business arrangement by which Mr Keeblc exchanged his 
money for Lady Constance’s social position. Such was not the 
case. It had been a genuine marriage of affection on both sides. 
Mr Keeble worshipped his wife, and she was devoted to him, 
though never foolishly indulgent. They were a happy and 
united couple. 

Mr Keeble cleared Iris throat. He seemed to find some diffi- 
culty m speaking. And when he spoke it was not on the sub- 
ject which he had intended to open, but on one which had 
already been worn out in previous conversations. 

‘ Connie, I’ve be^n thinking about that necklace again.’ 

Lady Constance laughed. 

*Oh, don’t be silly, Joe. You haven’t called me into this 
stuffy room on a lovely morning like this to talk about that for 
the hundredth time.’ 

‘ W^cll, you know, there’s no sense in taking risks.’ 

‘Don’t be absurd. What risks can there be?’ 

‘There was a burglary over at Winstone Court, not ten 
miles from here, only a day or two ago,’ 

‘ Don’t be so fussy, Joe.’ 

‘That necklace cost nearly twenty thousand pounds,’ said 
Mr. Keeble, in the reverent voice in which men of business 
traditions speak of large sums. 

‘I know.’ 

‘ It ought to be in the bank.* 

‘Once and for all, Joe,’ said Lady Constance, losing her 
amiability and becoming suddenly imperious and Cleopatrine, 
‘ [ will not keep that necklace in a bank. What on earth is the 
use of having a beautiful necklace if it is lying in the strong- 
room of a bank all the time? There is the County Ball coming 
on, and the Bachelors’ Ball after that, and . . • well, I need it. 
I will send the thing to the bank wlieri wc pass through Lon- 
don on our way to Scotland, but not till then. And 1 do wish 
you would stop Avorrying me about it.’ 

There was a silence, Mr Keeble was regretting now that his 
unfortunate poltroonery had stopped him from tackling in a 



Leave it to 1? smith 


iB 

straightforward and manly fashion the really important matter 
which was weighing on his mind : for he perceived that his 
remarks about the necklace, eminently sensible though they 
were, had marred the genial mood in which his wife had begun 
this inter\dew. It was going to be more dilficult now than ever 
to approach the main issue. Still, ruffled though she might be, 
the thing had to be done : for it involved a matter of finance, 
and in matters of finance Mr Keeble was no longer a free 
agent. He and Lady Constance had a mutual banking account, 
and it was she who supervised the spending of it. This was an 
arrangement, subsequently regretted by Mr Keeble, which had 
been come to in the early days of the honeymoon, when men 
arc apt to do foolish things, 

Mr Keeble coughed. Not the sharp, efficient cough which 
we have heard Rupert Baxter uttering in the library, but a 
feeble, strangled thing like the bleat of a diffident sheep. 

‘ Connie,’ he said. ‘ Er - Connie.’ 

And at the words a sort of cold film seemed to come over 
Lady Constance’s eyes: for some sixth sense told her what 
subject it was that was now about to be introduced. 

‘Connie, I - er - had a letter from Phyllis this morning.’ 

Lady Constance said nothing. Her eyes gleamed for an in- 
stant, then became frozen again. Her intuition had not de- 
ceived her. 

Into the married life of this happy c<.>uplc only one shadow 
had intruded itself up to the present. But unfortunately it was 
a shadow of considerable proportiems, a kind of super- 
shadow ; and its effect had been chilling. It was Phyllis, Mr 
Keeble’s step-daughter, who had caused it - by tlic simple 
process of jilting the rich and suitable young man whom Lady 
Constance had attached to her (rather in the manner of a con- 
jurer forcing a card upon his victim) and running off and 
marrying a far from rich and quite unsuitable person of whom 
all that seemed to be knowm was that his name was Jackson. 
Mr Keeble, whose simple creed was that Phyllis coukl do no 
wrong, had been prepared to accept the situation philosophic- 
ally; but his wife’s wrath had been deep and enduring* So 



Dark Plottings at B/andings Castle 19 

miach so that the mere mentioning of the girl’s name must be 
accounted to him for a brave deed. Lady Constance having 
specifically stated that she never wished to hear it again. 

Keenly alive to this prejudice of hers, Mr Keeble stopped 
after making his announcement, and had to rattle his keys in 
his pocket in order to acquire the necessary courage to con- 
tinue, He was not looking at his wife, but he knew just how 
forbidding her expression must be. This task of his was no 
easy, congenial task for a pleasant summer morning. 

* She says in her letter,’ proceeded Mr Keeble, his eyes on 
the carpet and his cheeks a deeper pink, ‘that young Jackson 
has got the chance of buying a big farm • . . in Lincolnshire, I 
think she said ... if he can raise three thousand pounds.’ 

fic paused, and stole a glance at his wife. It was as he had 
feared. She had congealed. Like some spell, the name Jackson 
had apparently turned her to marble. It was like the Pygmalion 
and Galatea business working the wrong way round. She was 
presumably breathing, but there was no sign of it. 

‘So I was just thinking,’ said Mr Keeble, producing another 
ohhligaio on the keys, ‘it )ust crossed my mind ... it isn’t as it 
the thing were a spcculathm . . . the place is apparently coining 
money . . . piesenr owner only selling because he wants to go 
abroad ... it occurred to me . . • and they would pay good 
interest on the loan . . 

‘What loan?’ inquired the statue icily, coming to !ife. 

‘ VC edl, what I vras thinking . . . just a suggest!' >n, you know 
. . . what struck me was that if you were willing wc might , . . 
gofnl investment, you know, and nowadays it’s deuced hard 
to hnd good investments ... I was thinking that we might 
lend them the nmney.’ 

He stopped. But he had gt)t the thing out and tclt happier, 
i le rattled his keys again, and rubbed the back of his head 
against the mantelpiece. The friction seemed to give him 
ct)nfidcnce. 

‘We had better settle this thing once and for all, Joe,’ said 
Lady Constance. ‘As you know, when we were married, I was 
ready to do everything for Phyllis, I was prepared to be a 



20 


'Leave it to Psmth 


mother to her, I gave her every chance, took her everywhere. 
And what happened?* 

‘Yes, I know. But • . 

‘She became engaged to a man with plenty of money . . .* 

‘ Shocking young ass,* interjected Mr Keeble, perking up for 
a moment at the recollection of the late lamented, whom he 
had never liked. ‘And a rip, what*s more. Fve heard stories.* 

‘Nonsense I If you are going to believe all the gossip you 
hear about people, nobody would be safe. He was a delightful 
young man and he w^ould have made Phyllis perfectly happy. 
Instead of marrying him, she chose to go off with this - Jack- 
son.* Lady Constance’s voice quivered. Greater scorn could 
hardly have been packed into two syllables. ‘After what has 
happened, I certainly intend to have nothing more to do with 
her. I shall not lend them a penny, so please do not let us con- 
tinue tills discussion any longer. I hope I am not an unjust 
woman, but I must say that I consider, after the way Phyllis 
behaved . , 

The sudden opening of the door caused her to break off. 
Lord Emsworth, mould-stained and wearing a deplorable old 
jacket, pottered into the room. He peered benevolently at his 
sister and his brother-in-law, but seemed unaware that he w'as 
interrupting a conversation. 

* Gardening As A Vine Art^ he murmured. ‘Connie, have 
you seen a book called Gardening As A Fine Art} I was read- 
ing it in here last night. Gardening As A Fine Art, That is the 
title. Now, where can it have got to?’ His dreamy eye flitted 
to and fro. ‘I want to show it to McAllister. There is a passage 
in it that directly refutes his anarchistic view^ on . . .’ 

‘It is probably on one of the shelves,’ said Lady Constance 
shortly. 

‘On one of the shelves?* said Lord Emsworth, obviously 
impressed by this bright suggestion. ‘Why, of course, to be 
sure/ 

Mr Kceble was rattling his keys moodily. A mutinous ex- 
pression was on his pink face. These moments of rebellion did 
not come to him very often, for he loved his wife with a dog- 



21 


Dark 'Plottings at ^landings Castle 

like affection, and had gro^vn accustomed to being ruled by 
her, but now resentment filled him. She was unreasonable, he 
considered. She ought to have realized how strongly he felt 
about poor little Phyllis. It was too infernally cold-blooded to 
abandon the poor child like an old shoe simply because . . * 

‘Are you going?* he asked, observing his wife moving to 
the door. 

‘Yes. 1 am going into the garden,* said Lady Constance. 
‘Why? Was there an^’thing else you wanted to talk to me 
about?’ 

‘No/ said Mr.Keeble despondently. ‘Oh, no.* 

Lady Constance left the room, and a deep masculine silence 
fell. Mr Keeble rubbed the back of his head meditatively 
against the mantelpiece, and Lord Emsworth scratched among 
the book-shelves. 

‘ Clarence 1* said Mr Kecblc suddenly. An idea - one might 
almost say un inspiration - had conic to him. 

‘Eh?* responded his lordship absently. He had found his 
book and was turning its pages, absorbed. 

‘Clarence, can 3 'ou . . .?* 

‘Angus McAllister,* observed Lord Emsworth bitterly, ‘is 
an obstinate, stifl'-nccked son of Belial. The wriicr of this book 
distinctly states in so many words . , .* 

‘ Clarence, can you lend me three thousand pounds on good 
security and keep it dark from Connie ? ’ 

Lord Emsworth blinked. 

‘Keep something dark from Connie?* He raised his eyes 
from liis book in order to peer at this visionary with a gentle 
pity. ‘My dear fellow, it can’t be done.’ 

‘ She would never know. I will tell you just why I want this 

monev . . . ' 

‘Money?* Lord Emsworth*$ eye had become vacant again. 
He was reading once more. ‘^loncy? Money, my dear fellow? 
Money? Money? What money? If 1 have said once,* declared 
Lord Emsworth, ‘that Angus Mcj\1 lister is all wrong on the 
subject of hollyhocks. Eve said it a hundred times.* 

‘Let me explain. This three thousand pounds . . .* 



22 


Leave it to 1? smith 


‘My dear fellow, no. No, no. It was like you/ said his lord* 
ship with a vague heartiness, ‘it was like you - good and 
generous - to make this oiler, but I liavc ample, thank you, 
ample. I don^t need three thousand pounds/ 

‘You don^t understand. I . . / 

‘No, no. No, no. But bam very much obliged, all the same. 
It was kind of you, my dear fellow, to give me the oppor- 
tunity* Very kind. Very, ven', very kind,^ proceeded his lord- 
ship, ttaiiing to the door and reading as he went. ‘ Oh, very, 
very, very * 

The door closed behind him. 

‘Oh, dahmV said Mr Kcxiblc. 

He sank into a chair in a state of profound dejection. He 
thought of the letter he would have to write to Phyllis. Poor 
Jictle Phyllis ... he would have to tell her that what she asked 
could not be managed. And why, thought Mr Keeble sourly, 
as he rose from his seat and went to the writing-table, cc)uld 
it not be managed? Simply because he was a weak-kneed, 
spineless creature who was afraid of a pair of grey eyes that 
had a tendency to freeze. 

* My dear Phyllis^^ he wrote. 

Here he stopped, How on earth was he to put it I What a 
letter to have to wiitc ! Mr Keeble placed his head between his 
hands and groaned aloud. 

‘Plallo, Unde Joe!’ 

The letter-writer, turning sharply, w.as aware - without 
pleasure - of his nephew T'redcTick, sUnding beside his cltair. 
He eyed him resentfully, fur he was not only exasperated but 
startled. He had not heard the door open. It was as if the 
smootli-haircd youth had popped up out of a trap. 

‘'Came in through the window/ exp lamed the 1 Ion. Trcdtlic, 
‘I say. Uncle Joe.’ 

‘Well, wliat is it?’ 

‘I say, Uncle Joe/ said Freddie, ‘can you lend me a thou- 
sand quid?’ 

Mar Keeble uttered a yelp like a pinched Pom ranian. 



uam tmttngs at ^landings Castle 


^5 


III 

As Mr Keeble, red-cyed and overw^rought, rose slowly from 
his chair and began to swell in ominous silence, his nephew 
raised his hand appealingly. It began to occur to the Hon. " 
Freddie that he had perhaps not led up to his request with the 
maximum of smooth taci. 

‘Half a jiffy 1* he entreated. ‘I say, don’t go in off the deep 
end for just a second. I can explain.’ 

Mr Keeble’s feelings expressed themselves in a loud snort, 

‘Explain!’ 

‘Well, 1 can. Whole trouble was, 1 started at the -wrong end. 
Shouldn’t have sprung it on you like that. The fact is. Uncle 
Joe, I’ve got a scheme. I give you my word that, if you’ll only 
put off having apoplexy for about three minutes,’ said Freddie, 
scanning lus fermenting relative with some anxiety, ‘1 can 
shove you sjn to a good thing. Honestly, 1 can. And all I say 
is, if this scheme I’m talking about is worth a thousand quid 
to you, will you slip it across? I’m game to spill it and leave 
it to your honesty to cash up if the thing looks good to 

YOU.’ 

‘A thousand pounds I’ 

‘Nice round sum,’ urged Freddie Ingratiatingly. 

‘Why,’ demanded Mr Kceble, now somewhat recovered, 
‘do you w’ant a tiu)usand pounds?’ 

‘Well, who doesn’t, if it come> to that?’ xaid Freddie, ‘But 
1 don’t mind telling you my special reason for wanting it at 
just this moment, if you’ll sw-ear to keep it under your hat as 
far as the guv’nor is concerned.’ 

‘ If \ ou mean that you wish me not to repeat to your father 
anything you may tell me in confidence, naturally 1 should not 
dream of doing such a thing.’ 

Freddie looked puzzled. His was no lighting brain. 

‘Can’t quite work that out,’ he confessed. ‘Do you mean 
you will tell him or you won’t?’ 

‘ I will not tell him.’ 

‘Good old Uncle Joe!’ said Freddie, relieved. ‘A topper! 



24 Leave if to Psmifh 

IVe always said so. Well, look here, you know all the trouble 
there’s been about my dropping a bit on the races lately?’ 

‘1 do.’ 

'Between ourselves, I dropped about five hundred of the 
best. And I just want to ask you one simple question. Why 
did I drop it?’ 

‘Because you were an infernal young ass.’ 

‘Well, yes,* agreed Freddie, having considered the point, 
‘you might put it that way, of course. But why was I an ass?’ 

‘Good God!* exclaimed the exasperated Mr Kceble. ‘Am I 
a psycho*analyst?’ 

‘I mean to say, if you come right dowm to it, I lost all that 
stuff simply because 1 wms on the wrong side of the fence. 
It’s a mug’s game betting on horses. The only way to make 
money is to be a bookie, and that’s what Fm going to do if 
you’lJ part with that thousand. Pal of mine, who was up at 
Oxford wdth me, is in a bookie’s office, and they’re game to 
take me in too’ if 1 can put up a thousand quid. Only I must 
let them know quick, because the offer’s not going to be open 
for ever. You’ve no notion what a deuce of a lot of competi- 
tion there is for that sort of job.’ 

Mr Keeble, who had been endeavouring w’ith some energy, 
to get a word in during this harangue, now contrived to speak. 

‘And do you s^iaousiy suppose that I would . . . But what’s 
the use of wasting time talking? 1 have no means of laying my 
hands on the sum you mention. If I had/ said Mr Keeble wist ^ 
fully, ‘If I had . . And his eye strayed to the letter on the 
desk, the letter which had got as far as ‘My dear Phyllis’ and 
stuck there, 

Freddie ga^ed upon him with cordial sympathy. 

‘Ob, I know how you’re situated. Uncle Joe, and I’m 
dashed sorry for you, I mean. Aunt Constance and all that.’ 

‘What!’ Irksome as Mr Kceble sometimes found the pecu- 
liar condition of his financial arrangements, he had always had 
the consolation of supposing that .^ey were a secret between 
his wtfc and himself. ‘ What do you mean?* 

‘Well, I know that Aunt Constance keeps an eye on the 



Dark Plottings at ^landings Castle 25 

doubloons and checks the outgoings pretty narrowly. And I , 
think it’s a dashed shame that she won’t unbuckle to help poor 
old Phyllis. A girl,’ said Freddie, ‘I always liked. Bally shame! 
Why the dickens shouldn’t she marry that fellow Jackson? I 
mean, love’s love,^ said Freddie, who felt strongly on this 
point, 

Mr Keeble was making curious gulping noises. 

‘Perhaps I ought to explain,’ said Freddie^ ‘that I was hav- 
ing a quiet after-breakfast smoke outside the window there 
and heard the whole thing. I mean, you and Aunt Constance 
going to the mat about poor old Phyllis and you trying to bite 
the guv’nor’s ear and so forth.’ 

Mr Keeble bubbled for a while. 

‘You - you listened!’ he managed to ejaculate at length. 

‘And dashed lucky foi you,’ said Freddie with a cordiality 
unimpaired by the frankly unfriendly stare under which a 
nicer-mindeu youth would have withered; ‘dashed lucky for 
you that 1 did. Because I’ve got a scheme.’ 

Mr Kceble’s estimate of his young relative’s sagacity was 
not a high one, and it is doubtful w’^hether, liad the latter 
caught him in a less despondent mood, he would have wasted 
time in inquiring into the details of this scheme, the mention 
of which had been playing in and out of Freddie’s conversa- 
tion like a will-o’-the-wisp. But such was hiS reduced state at 
the moment that a reluctant gleam of hope crept into his 
troubled eye. 

‘ A scheme? Do you mean a scheme to help me out of - out 
tjf my difficulty?’ 

‘ Absolutely 1 You want the best scats, we have I mean,* 
Freddie went on in interpretation of these peculiar w^ords, 

‘ you \vant three thousand quid, and 1 can show you how to 
get it.’ 

‘Then kindly do so,’ said Mr Keeble; and, having opened 
the door, peered cautiously out, and closed it again, he crossed 
the room and shut the wini^w. 

‘ Makes it a bit fugg)^ but perhaps you’re tight,’ said Fred- 
die, eyeing these manteuvres. ‘ Wfll, it’s like this. Uncle Joe. 



26 


JLe^we it to Psmth 


You remember what you were saying to Aunt ODnstance about 
some bird being apt to sneak up and pinch her necklace r 

‘I do/ 

'Well, why not?' 

*What mean?* 

‘I mean« why don't you?* 

Mr>*Ked:)Ie regarded his nephew with unconcealed astonish- 
ment. He had b^n prepared for imbecility, but this exceeded 
his cxffectations. 

my wife’s Necklace!* 

it. Frightfully quick you are, getting on to an idea. 
Pinch Aunt Connie's necklace. For, mark you/ c<'>ntinued 
Freddie, so far forgetting the respect due from a nephew as tr> 
tap his uncle sharply on the chest, ‘if a husband pinches any- 
thing from a wife, it isn’t stealing. That’s law. 1 h>und that out 
from a movie 1 saw in town.’ 

The Hon. Freddie was u great student of the movies. He 
could tell a super-film from a super-super-film at a glance, and 
what he did not know about erring wives and licentious club- 
men could have been written in a sub-titlc. 

^Are you insane?’ growled Mr Kecble. 

*It wouldn’t be hard f(.>r you to get hold of it. And once 
you’d got it everybody would be happy, I mean, all you’d have 
to do would be to draw a cheque to pay for another one for 
Aunt Connie - which would make her perfectly chirpy, as well 
as putting you one up, if you follow me. Then yo‘U would have 
the other necklace, the pinched oae> to play about with. Sec 
what I mean? You could sell it privily and by stealth, ship 
Phyllis her three thousand, push across my thousand, and what 
wa.s left over w^ould be a nice little private account for you to 
tuck away somewhere where Aunt Connie wouldn’t know 
anything about it. And a dashed useful tiling/ said Freddie, 
'to have up your sleeve in case of emergencies.* 

: ‘Arc you 

Mr Keebk was on the point of repeating h* previous re- 
cnark when suddenly there came the realization that, despite 
ill preconceived opinions, Jhc young man was anything but 



Dark Clottings at ^landings Castle 27 

insane. The scheme, at which he had been prepared to 
scoff, was so brilliant, yet simple, that it seemed almost 
incredible that its sponsor could have worked it out for 
himself. 

‘ Not my own,’ said Freddie modestly, as if ih itoswer to the 
thought. ‘Saw much the same thing in a moyi^ once. Only 
there the fellow, if I remember, wanted to do down an insur- 
ance company, and it wasn’t a necklace that: he pinched but 
bonds. Still, the principle’s the same, '^ell, bow do we go. 
Uncle Joe? How about it? Is that worth a thousand Quid or 
not?’ 

Even though he had seen in person to the closing of the 
door and the window, Mr Keeble could not refrain from a 
conspirator-like glance abemt him. They had been speaking 
with lowered voices, bur now words came from him in an 
almost inaudible v/hisper. 

‘Could it really be done? Is it feasible?' 

‘Feasible? Why, dash it, what the dickens is there to stop 
you? You could do it m a second. And the beauty of the 
whole thing is that, if you were copped, nobodv could say a 
word, because husband pinching from wife isn’t stealing. 
I/aw,’ 

The statement that in the circumstances indicated nobody 
could say a word seemed to Mr Kcchlc so at variance with the 
facts that he was compelled to challenge it, 

‘Your aunt w'ould have a good deal to say,’ he observed 
ruefully. ' 

‘ Eh? Oh, yes, 1 sec what you mean. Well, \ou would have 
to risk that. ;\frer all, the chances would be dead against her 
finding out,’ 

‘ Bm she might.’ 

‘Oh, well, if you put it like that, t suppose she might.’ 

‘ Freddie, my boy,’ said Mr. Kceblc weakly, ‘ 1 daren’t doitl’ 
The vision of his thousand pounds slipping from his grasp 
so wrought upon Freddie that he expressed himself in a man- 
ner far from fitting in one of his years towards an older man, 
‘Oh, 1 say, don’t be such a rabbit!’ 



28 


‘Leave it to Psmth 


Mr Keeble shook his head. 

"No/ he repeated, ‘I daren’t/ 

It might have seemed that the negotiations had reached a 
deadlock, but Freddie, with a thousand pounds in sight, was 
in far too stinaiiilatcd a condition to permit so tame an ending 
to such a promising plot. As he stood there, chafing at his 
uncle’s pusillanimity, an idea was vouchsafed to him. 

‘By Jovel I’ll tell you what!’ he cried. 

‘Not so loudr moaned the apprehensive Mr Keeble. ‘N<>t 
so loud!’ 

‘ ril tell you what/ repeated Freddie in a hoarse whisper 
‘flow would it be if I did the pinching?’ 

'What I ’ 

‘How would it . , 

‘Would you?’ Hope, which had vanished from Mr Kccbic’s 
face, came flooding back. ‘My boy, would you really?’ 

‘ For a thousand quid you bet I would.’ 

Mr Keeble clutched at his young relative’s hand and gripped 
it feverishly. 

‘Freddie/ he said, ‘the moment you place that necklace in 
my hands, I will give you not a thousand but two thousand 
pounds.’ 

‘ Hnclc Joe,’ said Freddie wnh equal intensity, ‘it’s a bet!’ 

Mr Keeble mopped at his forehead. 

‘You think you can manage it?’ 

‘Manage it?’ Freddie laughed a light laugh. ‘Just watch 
me!’ 

Mr Keeble grasped his hand again with the utmost warmth. 

‘I must go out and get some air,’ he said. ‘Fm all upset. 
May 1 really leave this matter to you, Freddie?’ 

‘Rather!’ 

‘Good! Then to-night I will write to Phyllis and say that 
I may be able to do wbar she wishes/ 

‘Don’t say “may/” cried Freddie buoyantly, ‘The word 
is “will.” Bally will! What hoi’ 



Dark Plottings at Blandings Castle 


29 


IV 

Exhillaration is a heady drug ; but, like other drugs, it has the 
disadvantage that its stimulating effects seldom last for very 
long. For perhaps ten minutes after his uncle Jbad left him, 
Freddie Threepwood lay back in his chair in a sort of ecstasy. 
He felt strong, vigorous, Jert. Then by degrees, like a chilling 
wind, doubt began to creep upon him - faintly at first, then 
more and more insistently, till by the end of a quarter of an 
hour he was in a state of pronounced self-mistrust. Or, t(^ 
put it with less elegance, he was suffering from an exceedingly 
severe attack of cold feet. 

The more he contemplated the venture which he had under- 
taken, the less alluring did it appear to him. His was not a keen 
imagination, but even he could shape with a grues om e clea^'- 
nCss a vision <.>f tlic frightful bust-up that would ensue should 
he be detected stealing his Aunt Constance’s diamond neck- 
lace. Common decency would in such an event seal his lips as 
regarded lus Uncle Joseph’s share in the matter. And even if - 
as might conceivably happen - common decency failed at the 
crisis, reason told him that his Uncle Jcj^eph would infallibly 
disclaim any knowledge of or ctMinexhm with the lash act. 
And then where would he be? In the soup, undoubtedly. For 
Freddie could not conceal k from himself that there was 
nothing in his prcvicuis record to make it seem mconcei\ab!e 
to his nearest and dearest that he should steal the jewellery t'f 
a female relative for purely personal ends. The verdict in the 
event of detection would be one of uncompromising con- 
demnation. 

And yet he hated the idea of meekly allowing that two 
thousand pounds to escape from his clutch • . • 

A young man’s cross-roads. 


The agony of spirit int(^ which these meditations cast him 
had brought him up with a bound from the comfortable 
depths of his arm-chair and had set him prowling restlessly 



Leave it to Psmith 


30 

about the room. Flis w^anderings led him at this point to collide 
somewhat painfully with the long table on which Bca^h the 
butler, a tidy soul, was in the habit of arranging in a n^t row 
the daily papers, weekly papers, and magazines which found 
their way into the castle. The shock had the effect of rousing 
him from his stupor, and in an absent way he clutched the 
nearest daily paper, which happened to be the Mormni^ Globe, 
and returned to his chair in the hope of quieting his ncr\’‘cs 
with a perusal of the racing intelligence. For, though far 
removed now from atiy practical share in the doings of the 
racing world, he still took a faint melancholy interest in ascer- 
taining what Captain Curb, the Head Lad, Little Bnghteyes, 
and the rest of the newspaper expertwS fancied for the day’s big 
event. He lit a cigarette and unfolded the journal. 

The next moment, instead of passing directly, as was his 
usual practice, to the last page, which was devoted to sport, 
was gazhig with a strange dry feeling in his throat at a certain 
advertisement on page one. 

It was a well -displayed advertisement, and one that had 
caught the eye of many other readers of the pajx^r that morn- 
ing. It was worded to attract attention, and it had achieved its 
object. But where others who read it had merely smiled and 
marvelled idly how anybody could spend goexi money putting 
nonsense like this m the paper, to Freddie its import was 
wholly serious. It read to him like the Real Thing. His motion- 
picture-trained mind accepted this advertisement at its face- 
value. 

It xUn as follows ; 

LhAl^IL IT TO PS'MJTH! 

Psmith Will Help ^'ou 
Psmith Is Ready For Anything 
DO YOL WANT 
Someone T'* Manage Your Affairs? 

Someone To Manage Your Busir;'.,ss? 

Someone To Take The Dog For A Run? 



Dark l?httings at ^landings Castle 3 1 

Someone To Assassinate Your Aunt? 

PSMITH WILL DO IT 
CRIME NOT OBJECTED TO 
Whatever Job You Have To Offer 
(Provided It Has Nothing To Do With Fish) 
LEAVE IT TO PSMITH I 
Address Applications To ‘R. Psmith, Box 365^ 
LEAVE IT TO PSMITH! 

Freddie laid the paper down with a deep intake of breath. 
He picked it up again, and read the advei tisement a second 
time. Yes, it sounded good. < 

Alore, it had something of the quality of a direct answer to 
prayer. Very vividly ntnv I'reddic icali^ed that what he had 
been wishing for was a partner to siiare the perils of this enter- 
prise which iic had so rashly undercakon. In fact, not so much 
to share them as to take them off his shoulders altogether. And 
such a paitner he was now in a position to command. Uncle 
Joe was gi)ing to give him two thousand if he brought the 
thing off. This advertisement fellow would probably be 
charmed to come in for a few hundred . . . 


Two minutes later, Freddie was at the writing-desk, scrib- 
bling a letter. From time to tune he glanced furtively over 
his shoulder at the door. But the hou^e was still. No footsteps 
canic to interiupt him at his task. 

V 

Freddie wciit out into the garden. He had nor wandered far 
when from somewhere chiso at hand there w.ts borne to him 
on the brce2:c a remark in a high voice about Scottish (obstin- 
acy, wliich could only have proceeded from one source. He 
quickened his steps, 

H lado, guv ’nor.’ 

‘Well, Frederick?’ 



32 


Leave // to "P smith 


Freddie shuffled. 

^ *I say, guv’iK^r, do you think I might go up to town with 
you this afternoon ? ' ' ^ 

‘What!’ 

‘Fact is, I ought to see my dentist. ITav^en’t been to him for 
a deuce of a time.’ 

*1 cannot sec the necessity for you to visit a London dentist. 
There is an excellent man in Shrewsbury, and you know 1 have 
the strongest objection to your going to London.’ 

‘Well, you see, this fellow uneierstands my snappers. 
Always been to him, 1 mean to say. Anybody who knows any- 
thing about these things will tell }ou greatest mistake go 
buzzing about to did'erent dentists.’ 

Already Lord Emsworth\ attenTi<.>n was wandering back tn 
the waiting McAUistcn 

‘Oh, ver\’ wxll, very well.’ 

‘Thanks aAvTully, g'lv’nor.’ 

‘But on one thing 1 insist, Fredciick. T cannot have you 
loafing about London the whole da}-. You must catch the 
twelve-fifty train hack.’ t 

‘Right ho. That’ll be all right, guv’nor.’ 

‘ \'OW, listen to reason, McAllister,’ said his lordship. * That 
is ail I ask you to do - listen to reason . • / 



C A P T E R 2 


tnter Tsml/j 


A t about the hour when Lr)rd Emsworth’s train, whirling 
him and his son Freddie to London, had reached the 
half-way point in its journey, a very tail, very thin, very solemn 
young man, gleaming in a spcckless top hat and a morning- 
coat of irreproachable fit, mounted the steps of Number 
Eighteen, Wallingford Street, West Kensington, and rang the 
front-door bell. This dope, he removed the hat; and having 
touched his forehead lighdy with a silk handkercliief, for the 
afternoon sun was warm, gazed about him with a grave dis- 
taste. 

scaly neighbourhood T he murmured. 

The young man’s judgement w-as one at which few people 
wnrh an eye for beauty would have cavilled. When the great 
revolution against London's xiglincss really star’s and yelling 
hordes of artists and architects, maddened beyond endurance, 
finally take the law into their own hands and rage through the 
city burning and destroying, Wallingford Street, West Ken- 
sington, will surely not escape the torch. Long since it must 
have been marked down for destruction, Ftjr, though it pos- 
sc-’Ses certain merits of a low practical kind, being inexpensive 
in the matter of rents and handy for the buses and the Under- 
grv>und, it is a peculiarly beastly litiJc street. Situated in the 
middle of one of those districts where London breaks out into 
a sort ot eczema of red brick, it consists of tw(» parallel rows of 
sc mi -detached villas, all exactly alike, each guarded by a ragged 
evergreen hedge, each wdtb coloured glass of an exticmcly re- 
grettable nature let into the panels of the fremt door ; and sensi- 
tive young impressionists from the artists’ colony up 1 loliand 
Park way may sometimes be seen stumbling through it with 


.^3 



34 Leaie it to 'P smith 

hands over their eyes, muttt. ig between clenched teeth ‘ How 
long? How long?^ 

A small maid-of-all work appeared in answer to the bell, and 
stood transfixed as the visitor, producing a monocle, placed it 
in his right eye and inspected her through it. 

'A warm afternoon,’ he said cordially. 

‘ Yes, sir.’ 

‘But pleasant,’ urged the young man. ‘Tell me, is l\Irs. Jack- 
son at home?* 

‘No, sir.’ 

‘Not at home?* 

‘No, sir.’ 

The young man sighed. 

‘Ah well,’ he said, ‘we must always remember that these 
dis^appointments arc sent to us for some gofxl purpose. No 
doubt they make us more ^pi^itual. Wdl you inform her that 
I called? The name is Psmith. P-smith.’ 

‘Pbasmith, sir?’ 

‘No, no. P-s-m-i-i-h. I should explain to you that I started 
life without the initial letter, and my father ahvays clung rug- 
gedly to the plain Smith. But it seemed to me that there were 
so many Smiths in the world that a little variety might well be 
intrcxluced. Smythe I !of)k on as a cowardly evasion, nor do I 
approve of the too prevalent custom of tacking another name 
on in front by mean'^ of a hyphen. So I decided to adopt the 
Psmirh. The p, I should add fpxyour guidance, is silent, as in 
phthisis, psychic, and ptarmigkh. Y'ou follow me?* 

‘Y-yes, sir.’ 

‘You don’t tliink,’ he said anxiously, ' that I did wrong in 
pursuing this ctmrsc!* 

‘N-no, sir.’ 

‘Splendid!’ said the young man, flicking a speck of dust 
from his coat-slccvc. ‘Splendid! Splendid!’ 

And with a c()urteous bovr he descended the steps and made 
his way down the street. The little maid, having followed him 
with bulging eyes till he was out of sight, cl(v.ed the door and 
returned to her kitchen. 



Enfer Pswith 


35 

Psmith strolled meditatively on. The genial warmth of the 
afternoon soothed him. He hummed lightly - only stopping 
when, as he reached the end of the street, a young man of his 
own age, rounding the corner rapidly, almost ran into him. 

‘Soi-ry/ said the young man, ‘Hallo, Smith.’ 

Psmith gazed upon him with benevolent aiffcction. 

‘Comrade Jackson/ he said, ‘this is well met. The one man 
of all others whom I would have wished to encounter. Wc will 
pop oft' somewhere. Comrade Jackson, should your engage- 
ments permit, and restore our tissues with a cup of tea. I had 
hoped to touch the Jackson family for some slight refresh- 
ment, but I was informed that your wife was out.’ 

Mike Jackson laughed. 

‘Phyllis isn’t out. She . • / 

‘Not out? Then/ said Psmith, pained, ‘there has been dirt}?- 
work done this da\. For 1 was turned from the door. It would 
not be exaggerating to sav that given the bird. Is tlus the 
boasted Jackson hospitality?’ 

‘ Phyllis is giving a tea to some of her i.>ld school pals,’ ex- 
plained Mike. ‘She told the maid to say she wasnh at home to 
anyb<xly else. I’m not allowed in myself/ 

‘Enough, Comrade Jackson!’ said Psmith agreeably. ‘Say 
no more. If you yourself have been booted out in spire of all 
the loving, honouring, and obeying your wife promised at the 
altar, who am 1 to complain? And possibly, one can console 
oneself by reflecting, wc ace Well v>ut of it. These gatherings of 
old gitls’-schocft chums are not the sort of function your man 
of atfairs wants to get lugged into. Capital conipany as wc are. 
Comrade Jackson, wc should doubtless have been v?xtremely 
in the way. I suppose the conversation would have dealt ex- 
clusively with reminiscences of the dear old school, of tales of 
surreptitiot^S cocoa-drinking in the dormitories and what the 
deportment mistress said when Angela was found chewing 
tobacco in the shrubbery. Yes, I fancy we have not missed a 
lot. ... By the way, I don’t think much of the new home. 
True. T only saw it from the outside, but . . , no, I don’t think 
much of it/ 



Leave it to L smith 


36 

‘ Best wc can afford/ 

^ And who/ said Psmith, *am I to taunt my boyhood friend 
with his honest j5ovcrty? Especially as I myself am standing 
on the very brink of destitution/ 

^You?’ 

‘I in person. That low moaning sound you hear is the 
wolf bivouacked outside my door/ 

‘But I thought your uncle gave you rather a good salary/ 

‘ So he did. But my uncle and I are about to part company. 
From now on he, so to speak, will take the high road and I’ll 
take the low road. I dine with him to-night, and over the nuts 
and wine I shall hand him the bad news that I propose to re- 
sign my position in the firm. 1 have no doubt that he supposed 
he was doing me a good turn by starting me in his fish busi- 
ness, but even what little experience 1 have had of it has con- 
vinced me that it is not my proper sphere. The whisper flies 
round the clubs “Psniith has not found his niche!” 

‘I am not/ said Psmith, ‘an unreasonable man. 1 realize that 
humanity must be supplied with fish. I am not averse from a 
bit of fish myself. But to be professionally connected with a 
firm that handles the material in the raw is not my idea of a 
large life-work. Remind me to tell you some time what it feels 
like to sling yourself <jut of bed at four a.m. and go down to 
toil in Billingsgate Market. No, there is money in fish - my 
uncle has made a pot of it - but what I feel is that there must be 
other walks in life for a bright young man. I chuck it to-night.’ 

‘ What are you going to do, then?’ 

‘That, Comrade Jackson, is more or less on the knees of the 
gods. To-morrow morning I think I will stroll -"ound to an 
employment agency and see how the market for bright young 
men stands. Do you know a good one?’ 

‘Phyllis always goes to Miss Clarksox/s mi Shaftesbury 
Avenue. But . . 

‘Miss Clarkson’s in Shaftesbury Avenue. I will make a note 
of it, ... Meanwhile, I wonder if you saw Morning Globe 
to-day?’ 

‘No. Whv?’ 



E^Ur P smith 


37 

‘ I had an advertisement in it, in which I expressed myself as 
willing - indeed, eager - to tackle any undertaking that had 
nothing to do with fish. I am confidently expecting shoals of 
replies. I look forward to winnowing the heap and selecting 
the most desirable.'' 

‘Pretty hard to get a job these days/ said Mike doubtfully. 
‘Not if you have something superlatively good to offer,' 
‘What have you got to offer!* 

‘Jviy services/ said Psmith wdth faint reproach. 

‘ What as ? * 

‘As anything. I made no restrictions. Would you care to 
take a look at my manifesto? 1 have a copy in my pocket.* 
Psmith produced from inside his immaculate waistcoat a 
folded clipping. 

‘I should welcome yc'ur opinion of it. Comrade Jackson. I 
have frequently said that for sturdy common sense you stand 
alone. You'* judgement should b.', invaluable.* 

The advertisement, which some hours earlier had so electri- 
fied the Hon. Freddie ThreepAVood in the smoking-room at 
Bkndings Castle, seemed to affect Mike, w^hose mind was of 
the stolid'and serious type, somewhat differently. He finished 
his perusal and stared speechlessly. 

‘Neat, don’t you think?’ said Psmith. ‘Covers the ground 
adequately? I think so, I think so,* ' 

‘Do you mean to say you’re going to put drivel like that in 
the paper?’ asked Mike. 

‘1 have put it in the paper. As 1 told you, it appeared this 
m'lrning. By this time to-morrow 1 shall no doubt have fin- 
ished sorting out the first batch of replies.* 

Mike’s emotion took him back to the phrascolog}" of school 
days. 

‘ You are an ass! * 

Psmith restored the dipping to his waistcoat pocket, 

‘You wound me, Comjjade Jackson,* he said. ‘I had ex- 
pected a broader outlook from you. In fact, I rather supposed 
that you would have rushed round instantly to the offices i^f 
the journal and shoved in a similar advertisement yourself. 



Leave // fo L smith 


38 

But nothing that you can say can damp my buoyant spirit. 
The cry goes round Kensington (and district) “ Psmith is off! 
In what direction the cry omits to state : but that information 
the future will supply. And now. Comrade Jackson, let us 
trickle into yonder tea-shop and drink success to the venture 
in a cup of the steaming. I had a particularly hard morning 
to-day among the whitebait, and I need refreshment.’ 

II 

After Psmith had withdrawn his spectacular person from it, 
there was an interval of perhaps twenty minutes before any- 
tiling else occurred to brighten the drabness of Wallingford 
Street. The lethargy of afternoon held the thoroughfare in its 
grip. Occasionally a tradesman's cart would rattle round the 
corner, and from time to time cats appeared, stalking pur- 
posefully among the evergreens. But at ten minutes to five 
a girl ^10' up the steps of Number Eighteen and rang the 
bell. " 

She was a girl of medium height, very straight and slim ; and 
ner fair hair, her cheerful smile, and the boyish suppleness of 
her body all contributed to a general effect of valiant gaiety, a 
sort of golden sunniness - accentuated by the fact that, like all 
girls who looked to Paris for inspiration ia their dress that 
seasf^n, she was wearing black. 

The small maid appeared again, 

‘Is Mrs Jackson at home?" said the girl. think she’s ex- 
pecting me. Miss Hailiday.* 

‘Yes, miss.’ 

A door at the end of the narrow hall had opened. 

Ts that you, Eve?’ 

‘ Hallo, Phyl, darling.’ 

Phyllis Jackson fluttered down the passage like a rose-leaf 
on the wind, and hurled herself into Eve’s arms. She was small 
and fragile, with great brown eyes^nder a cloud of dark hair. 
She had a wistful look, and most people who knt'w her w'anted 
to pet her. Eve had always petted her, from jEh^ ir fitst days at 
school together. 



Ejifer Ps7mtb 


*Am I late or early?’ asked Eve. 

‘You’re the first, but we won’t wait. Jane, will you bring 
tea into the drawing-room?’ 

‘Ycs’m.’ 

‘And, remember, I don’t want to see anyone for the rest of 
the afternoon. If anybody calls, tell them Fm not at home. 
Except Miss Clarkson and Mrs McTodd, of course.’ 

‘Yes’m.’ 

‘Who is Mrs McTodd?’ inquired Eve. ‘Is that Cynthia?’ 

‘Yes. Didn’t you know she had married Ralston McTodd, 
the Canadian poet? You knew she went out to Canada?’ 

‘I knew that, yes. But I hadn’t heard that she w^as married. 
Funny how out of touch one gets with girls who were one’s 
best friends at school. Do you realize it’s nearly two years since 
I saw’ you?’ 

‘I know. Isn’t it awful ! I got your address from Elsa Went- 
worth two or three days ago, and then Clarkie told^ifiic that 
Cynthia was over here on a visit with her husband, so I 
thevught how’ j(jl]y it would be to have a regular reunion. Wc 
three w’ere such friends in the old days. ... You remember 
Clarkie, of course? Miss Clarkson, who used to be English 
mistress at Wayland House.’ 

‘ Y^es, of course. Where did youjun into her?’ 

‘Oh, I see a lot of her. She runs a Domestic Employment 
Agency in Shaftesbury Avenue now% and I have to go there 
about once a fortnight to get a new maid. She supplied Jane,’ 

‘Is Cynthia’s luisband coming with her this afternoon?’ 

^No. I wanted it to be simply us four. Do you know^ him? 
But of course you dem’t. This is his first visit to England.’ 

‘1 know his poetry. He’s quite a celebrity. Cynthia’s lucky.’ 

They had made their way into the drawing-room, a grue- 
some little apartment full of all those antimacassars, w^ax 
flow’crs, and china dogs inseparable from the cheaper type of 
London furnished house. B\e, though the exterior of Number 
Eighteen should have prepared her for all this, was unable to 
check a slight sj^udder as she caught the oyc of the least pre- 
possessing of the dogs, goggling at her from the mantelpiece. 



40 


Leave it to 1? smith 


‘Don’t look at them,’ recommended Phyllis, following her 
gaze. ‘I try not to. We’ve only just moved in here, so I 
haven’t had time to make the place nice. Here’s tea. All right, 
Jane, put it down there. Tea, Eve?’ 

Eve sat down. She was puzzled and curious. She threw her 
mind back to the days at school and remembered the Phyllis 
of that epoch as almost indecently opulent. A millionaire step- 
father there had been then, she recollected. What had become 
of him now, that he should allow Phyllis to stay in surround- 
ings like tliis? Eve scented a mystery, and in her customary 
straightforward way went to the heart of it. 

‘Tell me all about yourself,’ she said, having achieved as 
much comfort as the peculiar structure of her chair would per* 
mit. ‘And remember that 1 haven’t seen you for two years, so 
don’t leave anything out.’ 

‘ It’s so difficult to know w’hcrc to start.’ 

‘Well, you signed 3 ^our letter “Phyllis Jackson”. Start with 
the mysterious Jackson. Where docs he come in? The last I 
heard about you was an announcement in the Morning Post 
that you were engaged to - I’ve h)rgottcn the name, but I’m 
certain it wasn’t Jackson.’ 

‘Rollo Mountford.’ 

‘Was it? Well, what has become of Rollo? You seem to 
have mislaid him. Did you break off the engagement?’ 

‘ Well, it - sort of broke itself off. I mean, you see, T went 
and married Mike,’ 

‘Eloped with him, do vou mean?’ 

‘Good heavens!’ 

‘ Tm awfully ashamed about that. Eve. I suppose I treated 
Rollo awfully badly.’ 

‘Never mind. A man with a name like that was made for 
sulTering.’ 

‘I never really cared for himr'Ilc had horrid swiminy 
eyes , . , ’ 

‘1 understand. So you eloped with you^. A-ike. Tell me 
about him. Who is he? What does he do?’ 



En^er P smith 


4X 

‘ Well, at present he’s master at a school. But he doesn’t like 
it. He wants to get back to the country again. When I met 
him, he was agent on a place in the country belonging to some 
people named Smith. Mike had been at school and Cambridge 
with the son. They were very rich then and had a big estate. 
It was the next place to the EdgeJows. I had gone to stay with 
Mary Eidgelow - 1 don’t kr.ow if you remember her at school? 
1 met Mike first at a dance, and then I met him out riding, and 
then - well, after that we used to meet every day. And we fell 
in love right from the start and we went and got married. Oh, 
Eve, 1 wish you could have seen our darling little house. It was 
all cn cr ivy and roses, and wc had horses and dogs and . . 

Phyllis’ narrative broke off with a gulp. Eve looked at her 
sympathetically. All her life she herself had been joyously im- 
jx;cunious, but it had never seemed to matter. She was strong 
and adventurous, and revelled in the perpetual excitement of 
trying to make both ends meet. Buc Phyllis was one of those 
sweet porcelain girls whom the roughnesses of life bruise in- 
stead <^f stimulating. She needed comfort and pleasant sur- 
roundings. Eve looked morosely at the china dog, which 
leered back at her with an insutferable good-fellowship. 

‘Wc had hardly got married,' resumed Phyllis, blinking, 
‘when poor Mr Smith died and the whole place was broken 
up. He must have been speculating or something, I suppose, 
because he hardly left any money, and the estate had to be 
sold. And the people who bought it - they were coal people 
from Wolverhampton - had a nephew for whom they wanted 
the agent job, so Mike had to go. So here we are.’ 

Eve put the question which she had been waiting to ask 
ever since she had entered the house. 

‘But what about your stepfather? Surely, when we were at 
school, you had a rich stepfather in the background. Has he 
lost his money, too?’ 

‘No,’ 

‘Well, why doesn’t he help you, then?’ 

‘He would, I know, if he was left to himself. But it'^s Aunt 
Constance.’ 



42 Leave it to Psmith 

^What’s Aunt Constance done ? And who is Aunt Constance 

‘Well, I call her that, but she's really my stepmother - sort 
of. I suppose she’s really my step-stepmother. My stepfather 
married again two years ago. It was Aunt Constance who was 
so furious when I married Mike. She wanted me to marry 
Rollo. She has never forgiven me, and she won’t let my step- 
father do an\^hing to help us.’ 

‘But the man must be a worm!’ said Eve indignantly. 
‘ Wliy df>esn’t he insist.^ You always used tell me how fond 
he was of you.’ 

‘He isn’t a worm. Eve. He’s a dear. It’s just that he has let 
her boss him. She’s rather a terror, vou know. She can be 
quite nice, and they’re awfully fond of each other, but she is 
as hard as nails sometimes.’ Phyllis broke olf. The front door 
had opened, and there were footsteps in the hall. ‘Here’s 
Clarkie. I hope she has brought Cynthia with her. She w'as to 
pick her up on her way. Don’t talk about what I’ve been tell- 
ing you in front of her. Eve, there’s an ani^el.’ 

‘‘Why not?’ 

‘She’s so motherly about it. It’s sweet of her, but . . / 

Eve understood. 

‘All right. Later on,’ 

The door opened to admit Miss Clarkson, 

The adjective which Phyllis had applied to her late school- 
mistress was obviously well chosen. Miss Clarkson exuded 
motherl incss. She was large, wholesome, and soft, and she 
swc>opcd on live like a hen on its chicken almost before the 
door had closed. 

‘Eve 1 How nice to see you after all this time! My dear, 
you’re looking perfectly lovely! And so prosperous. What a 
beautiful hat! ’ 

‘ I’ve been env^f'ing it ever since you came. Eve/ said Phyllis. 
‘Where did you get it? ’ 

‘Madeleine Shears, in Regent Street.’ 

Miss Clarkson, having acquired and stirred o cup of tea, 
started to improve the occasion. Eve liad alwa) s been a fav- 
ourite of hers at school. She beamed affectionately upon her. 



Ef^fer E smith 


43 

^Now doesn’t this show - what I always used to say to you 
in the dear old days. Eve - that one must never despair, how- 
ever black the outlook may seem? I remember you at school, 
dear, as poor as a church mouse, and with no prospects, none 
whatever. And yet here you arc - rich . . / 

Eve laughed. She got up and kissed Miss Clarkson. She 
regretted that she was compelled to strike a jarring note, but 
it had to be done. 

‘I’m a’^vfully sorry, Clarldc dear,’ she said, ‘but I’m afraid 
Tve misled you. I’m just as broke as I ever was. In fact, when 
Phyllis told me y<3u were running an Employment Agency% I 
made a note to come and see you and ask if you had some 
attractive billet to dispose of. Governess to a thoroughly an- 
gelic child would do. Or isn’t there some nice cosy author or 
something wdio wants his betters answered and his press-clip- 
pings pasted in an album?’ 

‘Oh, my dear!’ Miss Clarkson was deeply concerned. ‘I did 
hope , , . That hat . . .1’ 

‘The hat’s the whole trouble. Of course I had no business 
even to think of it, but 1 saw it in the sh(>p-window and cov- 
eted It for days, and finally fell. And then, you sec, 1 had to live 
up to it - buy shoes and a dress to match. I tell you it was a 
perfect orgy, and Trn thoroughly ashamed of myself now. 
Too late, as usual.’ 

‘Oh, dear! You always 'were such a wild, impetuous child, 
even at school. I remember how ohen I used to speak to you 
about it.’ 

‘ Well, when it was ail over and 1 was sane again, I found I 
had only a few pounds left, not nearly enough to see me 
through till the relief expedition arrived. So I thought it over 
and decided to invest my little all.’ 

‘I hope you chose something safe?’ 

‘It ought to have been. The Sporting Express called it “To- 
day’s Safety Bet.” It was Bounding Willie for the two-thirty 
race at Sandown last Wednesday,’ 

‘Oh, dear!’ 

‘That’s what I said when poor old Willie came in sixth. 



44 


Leave it to P smith 


But it’s no good worrying, is it? What it means is that I simply 
must find something to do that will carry me through till I get 
my next quarter’s allowance. And that won’t be till Septem- 
ber. . . . But don’t let’s talk business here. I’ll come round to 
your office, Clarkie, to-morrow. . . . Where’s Cynthia? Didn’t 
you bring her?’ 

‘Yes, I thought you were going to pick Cynthia up on your 
way, Clarkie,’ said Phyllis. 

If Eve’s information as to her financial affairs had caused 
Miss Clarkson to mourn, the mention of Cynthia plunged her 
into the very depths of woe. Her mouth quivered and a tear 
stole down her check. E\ e and Phyllis exchanged bewildered 
glances. 

‘ I say/ said Eve after a moment’s pause and a silence broken 
only by a smothered sob from their late instructress, ‘ we aren’t 
being very cheerful, are wc, considering that this is supposed 
to be a joyous reunion? Is anything wrong with Cynthia?’ 

So poignant was Miss Clarkson’^s anguish that Phyllis, in a 
flutter of alarm, rose and left the room swiftly in search of the 
only remedy that suggested itself to her - her smelling-salts. 

‘Poor dear Cynthia!’ moaned Miss Clarkson. 

‘Why, wliat’s the matter with her?’ asked Eve. She was not 
callous to Miss Clarkson's grief, but she could not help the 
tiniest of smiles. In a flash she had been tiansported to her 
school-day^s, when the other’s habit of extracting the utmost 
tragedy out of the slimmest material had been a source of ever- 
fresh amusement to her. Not for an instant did site expect to 
hear any worse news of her old friend than that she was in 
bed with a cold or had twisted her ankle. 

‘She’s married, you know,' said Miss Clarkson. 

'■Well, I see no harm in that, Clarkie. If a few more Safety 
Bets go wrong, I shall probably have to lush out and marry 
someone myself. Some nice, rich, indulgent man who will 
sprul me.’ 

‘Oh, Eve, my dear,’ pleaded Miss Clarkson, bleating with 
alarm, ‘do please be careful w’hom you marry. 1 never heat of 
one of my girls marrying without feeling that the worst may 



E^fer P smith 


45 

happen and that, all unknowing, she may be stepping over a 
grim precipice!* 

'You don’t tell them that, do you? Because I should think 
it would rather cast a damper on the wedding festivities, Has 
Cynthia gone stepping over grim precipices? J was just saying 
to Phyllis that 1 envied her, marry ing a celebrity like Ralston 
McTodd.’ 

Miss Clarkson gulped. 

'The man must be a fiend V she said brokenly. have just 
left poor dear Cynthia in floods of tears at the Cadogan Hotel 
- she had a very nice quiet room on the fourth floor, though 
the carpet docs not harmonize with the wall-paper. . . . She 
was broken-hearted, poor child. I did what I could to console 
her, but it was useless. She always was so highly strung. I must 
be getting back to her ve^'y soon. I only came on here because 
I did not want to disappoint you two dear girls . . .* 

'Why?’ said Eve with quiet intensity. Slic knew from ex- 
perience that Miss Clarkson, unless firmly chocked, would 
pirouette round and round the point for nunutes without ever 
touching it. 

'W'hyP’ echoed Miss Clarkson, blinking as if the word w*as 
something solid that had struck her unexpectedly. 

*Why was Cynthia in floods of tears?’ 

'But I’m telling you, my dear. That man has left herl* 

'Left her I’ 

'They had a quarrel, and he walked straight out of the 
hotel. That was the day before yesterday, and he has not been 
back since. This afternoon the curtest note came from him to 
say that he never intended to return. He had secretly and in a 
most underhand way arranged for his luggage to be removed 
from the hotel to a District Messenger oifice, and from there 
he has taken it no one knows where. He has completely dis- 
appeared.’ 

Eve stared. She had not been prepared for news of this 
momentous order. 

'But what did they quarrel about?’ 

'Cynthia, poor child, was too overwrought to tell me I’ 



46 


Leave it to L smith 


Eve clenched her teeth. 

*The beast! . . . Poor old Cynthia. ... Shall I come round 
with you?’ 

*No, my dear, better let me look after her alone. I will tell 
her to write and let you know when she can see you. I must 
be going, Phyllis dear/ she said, as her hostess re-entered, 
bearing a small bottle. 

‘But you’ve only just come!’ said Phyllis, surprised. 

‘Poor old Cynthia’s husband has left her/ explained Eve 
briefly. ‘And Clarkie’s going back to look after her. She’s in 
a pretty bad way, it seems.’ 

‘Oh, no!’ 

‘ Yes, indeed. And I really must be going at once,’ said Miss 
Clarkson. 

Eve waited in the drawing-room till the front door banged 
and Phyllis came back to her, Phyllis was more wistful than 
ever. She had been looking forward to this tea-party, and it 
had not been the happy occasion she had anticipated. The two 
girls sat in silence for a moment. 

‘What brutes some men arc! ’ said Hve at length. 

‘Mike/ said Phyllis dreamily, ‘is an angel.’ 

Eve welcomed the unspoken invitation to return to a more 
agreeable topic. She felt very deeply for the stricken Cynthia, 
but she hated aimless talk, and nothing could have been more 
aimless than for her and Phyllis to sit there exchanging lamen- 
tations concerning a tragedy of which neither knew more than 
the bare outlines. Phyllis had her tragedy, too, and it was one 
where Eve saw the possibility of doing something practical 
and helpful. She was a girl of action, and was glad to be able 
to attack a living issue, 

‘Yes, let’s go on talking about you and Mike,’ she said. ‘ At 
present 1 can’t understand the position at all. When Clarkie 
came in, you were just telling me about your stepfather and 
why he wouldn’t help you. And I thought you made out a 
very' poor case for him. Tell me some moie. I’ve Torgotten his 
name, bv the way/ 

‘Kecble.’ 



E/iUr 1? smith 


47 

*Oh! Well, I think you ought to write and tell him how 
hard-up you are. He may be under the impression that you 
arc still living in luxury and don’t need any help. After all, he 
can’t know unless you tell him. And I should ask him straight 
out to come to the rescue. It isn’t as if it was your Mike’s fault 
that you’re broke. lie married you on the strength of a very 
good position which loo teed like a permanency, and lost it 
through no fault of his own. I should write to him, Phyl. 
Pitch It strong.’ 

have. I wrote to-day. Mike’s just been offered a wonderful 
oppr)rtunity. A sort of farm place in Lincolnshire. You know. 
Cows and things. Just what he would like and just what he 
would do awfully well. And we only need three thousand 
pounds to get it, . . . But I’m afraid iKjthing will come of it.’ 

'Because of Aunt C(jnstancc, you mean?’ 

‘Yes.’ 

‘ You must make something come of it.’ Eve’s chin went up. 
She looked like a Goddess of Determinate )n. ‘Jf I were you. 
I’d haunt their doorstep till they had to give you the money to 
get rid of you. The idea of anybody doing that absurd driving- 
into-the-snow business in these days! Wny shotdon t you marry 
the man you were in love with? If 1 were you, I’d go and chain 
myself to their railings and howl like a dog till they rushed out 
with chctjue-books just to gel some peace. Du they live in 
London?’ 

‘They arc down in Shropshire at present at a place called 
Blandings Castle.’ 

F:.vc started. 

‘Blandings Castle? Good gracious!’ 

‘Aunt C(^nstancc is Lord Emswe^rth’s sister.’ 

‘But this is the mixst cxtraordjnary thing. I’m going to 
Blandings mvself in a few days.’ 

‘No!‘ 

‘They’ve engaged me to catalogue the castle librar}^’ 

‘But, Eve, were you only joking when you asked 
Clarkic to find you something to do? She took you quite 
seriously.’ 



48 


JLeave if to P smith 


I wasn’t joking. There’s a drawback to my going to 
Blandings. I suppose you know the place pretty well?’ 

‘I’ve often stayed there. It’s beautiful.’ 

‘Then you know Lord Emsworth’s second son, Freddie 
Threepwood?’ 

‘Of course.’ 

‘ Well, he’s the drawback. He wants to marry me, and I cer- 
tainly don’t want to marry him. And what I’ve been wonder- 
ing IS whether a nice easy job like that, which would tide me 
over beautifully till September, is attractive enough to make 
up for the nuisance of having to be always squelching poor 
Freddie. I ought to have thought of it right at the beginning, 
of course, when be wrote and told me to apply for the posi- 
tion, but 1 was so delighted at the idea of regular work that it 
didn’t occur to me. Then I began to wonder, lie’s such a per- 
severing young man. fie proposes early and often.’ 

‘Where did you meet FrcddiCj?’ 

‘At a theatre party. About two months ago. Me was living 
in London then, but he suddenly disappeared and 1 had a 
heart-broken letter from him, saying that he had been tunning 
up debts and things and his father had snatched him away to 
live at Blandings, which apparently is Freddie’s idea of the 
Inferno. The world seems full of hard-hearted relatives.’ 

‘Oh, Lord Emsworth isn’t really hard-hearted. You will 
love him. fle’s so dreamy and absent-minded. lie potters about 
the garden all the time. I don’t think you’ll like Aunt Con- 
stance much. But I suppr'.sc you won’t see a great deal of her.’ 

' Whom shall 1 sec much of- except Freddie, of course?’ 

‘ Mr Baxter, Lord Emsworth’s secretary, 1 expect, i don’t 
like him at all. He’s a sort of spectacled caveman.’ 

‘ He doesn’t sound attractive. But you .say the place is nice?’ 

Ht’s gorgeous. 1 should go, if I were you, Eve.’ 

^ Well, I had intended not to. But now you’ve told me about 
Mr Kceblc and Aunt Constance, Fvc changed my mind. I’ll 
have to look in at Clarkie’s office to-morrow ar.* tell her I’m 
fixed up and shan’t need her help. I’m going to lake your sad 
case in hand, darling. I shall go to Blandings, and I will dog 



Enter P smith 


49 

your stepfather’s footsteps. • . . Well, I must be going. Come 
and see me to the front door, or I’ll be losing my way in the 
miles of stately corridors, ... I suppose I mayn’t smash that 
china dog before I go? Oh, well, I just thought Fd ask.’ 

Out in the hall the little maid-of-all-work bobbed up and 
intercepted them. 

forgot to tell you, mum, a gentleman called. I told him 
you was out.’ 

‘Quite right, Jane,’ 

‘ Said his name was Smith, ’m.’ 

Phyliis gave a cry of dismay. 

‘Oh, no! What a shame] I particularly wanted you to meet 
him, Eve. 1 wish I’d known.’ 

‘Smith?’ said Eve. ‘The name seems familiar. Why were 
j^ou so anxious for me to meet him?’ 

‘He’s Mike’s best friend. Mike worships him. He’s the son 
of the Mr Smith I was telling you about - the one Mike was 
at school and Cambridge with. He’s a perfect darling, Eve, and 
vou would love him. He’s just your sort. I do wish we had 
known. And now you’re going to Blandings for goodness 
knows how long, and you won’t be able to sec him.’ 

‘ What a pity,’ said Eve, politely uninterested. 

‘Fm so sorry for him.* 

‘Why?’ 

‘ 1 le’s in the tish business.* 

‘ Ugh!’ 

‘Well, he hates it, poor dear. But he was left stranded like 
all the rest of us after the crash, and he was put into the busi- 
ness by an uncle who is a sort of fish magnate.’ 

‘Well, why does he stay there, if he dislikes it so much?* 
said E\ e with indignation. The helpless type of man w'as her 
pet aversion. ‘1 hate a man who’s got no enterprise.’ 

‘ I don’t think you could call him unenterprising. He never 
struck me like that. . . . You simply must meet him when you 
come back to London,’ 

‘All right,’ said Eve indifferently. ‘Just as you like. I might 
put business in his way, Fm very fond of fish.’ 



CHAPTER 3 

6ve ^ornnrs an Umbrella 

I 

W HAT strikes the visitor to London most forcibly, as 
he enters the heart of that city’s fashionable shopping, 
district, is the almost cntiic absence of ostentation in the shop- 
windows, the studied avoidance of garish display. About the 
front of the premises of Messrs Thorpe &: Briscoe, for in- 
stance, who sell coal in Dover Street, there is as a rule nothing 
whatever to attract fascinated attention. You might give the 
place a glance as you passed, but you would certainly not pause 
and stand statinc: at it as at the Sistine Chapel o>r the Taj Mahal. 
Yet at ten-thirtv' on the morning after Eve IJalliday had taken 
tea with her friend Phyllis Jackson in West Kensington, 
Psmith, k)unging gracefully in the smoking-room window 
(.^f the Drones Club, which is immediately opposite the 
Thoipe & Briscoe establishment, had been gazing at it fixedly 
for a full five minutes. One would have said that the 
spectacle enthralled him. He seemed unable to take his eyes 
otf it. 

There is always a icason Uyt the most apparently inexplic- 
able happenings. Tt is the practice of Thorpe (ot Briscoe) dur- 
ing the months of summer to run out an awning over the shop. 
A quiet, genteel awning, of course, nothing to offend the eye - 
but an awning which offers a quite adequate protects »n against 
those sudden showers which ate such a delightfully piquant 
feature of the English summer; one of which had just begun 
to sprinkle the West End of London with a good deal of 
heartiness and vigour. And under this awming, pcer .ng plain- 
tively out at the rain. Eve Hallklay, on her w t ' to the Ada 
Clarkson Employment Bureau, had taken refuge. It was she 
who had so enchained Psmith’s interest. It was his considered 


50 



Eve Borrms an Umbrella 


51 

opinion that she improved the Thorpe & Briscoe frontage by 
about ninety-hve per cent. 

Pleased and gratified as Psmith was to have something nice to 
look at out of the smoking-room window, he was also some- 
what puzzled. This girl seemed to him to radiate an atmosphere 
of wealth. Starting at farthest south and proceeding northward, 
she began in a gleam of patent-leather shoes. Fawn stockings, 
obvi^msly expensive, led up to a black crepe frock. And then, 
just as the eye was beginning to feel that there could be nothing 
more, it was stunned by a supreme hat of soft, dull satin with a 
black bird of Paradise feather falling down over the left 
shoulder. Even to the masculine eye, which is notoriously 
to seek in these matters, a whale of a hat. And yet this sump- 
tuously upholstered young woman had been marooned by a 
shower of tain beneath the awning of Messrs Thorpe & 
Briscoe. Why Psmith asked himself, was this? liven, he 
argued, if Charles the chauffeur had been given the day off 
or was driving her father the millionaire to the City to at- 
tend to his vast interests, she could surely afford a cab-fare? 
We, who arc familiar with the state of Eve's finances, can 
understand her inability to take cabs, but Psimth was frankly 
perplexed. 

Being, however, both ready-witted and chivalrous, he per- 
ceived that this was no time for idle speculation, f lis not to 
reason why; his obvious duty was to take steps to assist 
Beauty in distress, f Ic left the window of the smoking-room, 
anrl, having made his way with a smooth dignity to the club’s 
cloak-room, proceeded to submit a row of umbrellas to a close 
inspectitm. lie was not easy to satisfy. Two which he went so 
far as to pull out of the rack he returned with a shake of the 
head. ' ,)uiie good umbrellas, but not fit for this special service. 
At length, however, he found a beauty, and a gentle smile 
dickered across his solemn face. He put up his monocle and 
gazed scarchingiy at this umbrella. It seemed to answer every 
lest. He was well pleased with it. 

‘Whose,’ he inquired of the attendant, Hs this?’ 

‘Belongs to the Honourable Mr Walderwick, sir,’ 



Leave it to P smith 


52 

'Ah!* said Psmith tolerantly. 

He tucked the umbrella under his arm and went out* 


Meanwhile Eve Halliday, lightening up the sombre austerity 
of Messrs Thorpe & Briscoe’s shop-front, continued to think 
hard thoughts of the English climate and to inspect the sky 
in the hope of detecting a spot of blue. She was engaged 
in this cheerless occupation when at her side a voice spoke. 

"Excuse me!’ 

A hatless young man was standing beside her, holding an 
umbrella. He was a striking-looking young man, very tall, 
very thin, and very w^ell dressed. In his riglit eye there was a 
monocle, and through this he looked down at her with a grave 
friendliness. He said nothing further, but, taking her lingers, 
clasped them round the handle of the umbrella, which he had 
obligingly opened, and then with a courteous bow proceeded 
to dash with long strides across the road, disappearing through 
the doorway of a gloomy building which, from the number 
of men who had gone in and out during her vigil, she had set 
down as a club c^f some sort. 

A good many surprising things had happened to Eve since 
iirst she had come to live in London, but nothing quite so 
surprising as this. For several minutes she stor>d where she 
•was without moving, staring round-eyed at the building oppo- 
site. The episode was, however, apparently ended. The young 
man did not reappear. J le did nc>t even show himself at the 
wind(>w.The club had swallowed him up. And eventually Ev(' ^ 
deciding that this was not the sort of day on which to refuse 
umbrellas even if they dropped inexplicably fmir heaven, 
stepped out from under the awning, laughing helplessly, and 
started to resume her interrupted journey to Miss Clarkson’s. 


The offices of the Ada Clarkson Internationa > Employment 
Bureau ("Promptitude - Courtesy - Intelligence’) arc at the 
top of Shaftesbury Avenue, a little way past the Palace Theatre* 



Ere Borrows an Umbrella 


53 

Eve, closing the umbrella, which had prevented even a spot of 
rain falling on her hat, climbed the short stair leading to the 
door and tapped on the window marked ‘ Enquiries \ 

‘Can I see Miss Clarkson?" 

‘What name, please?" responded Enquiries promptly and 
with intelligent courtesy, 

‘Miss Halliday." 

Brief interlude, in%^olving business with speaking-tube. 

‘ Will you go into the prjvate oHicc, please," said Enquiries 
a moment later, in a voice which n(^w added respect to the 
other advertised qualities, for she had had time to observe and 
digest the hat. 

Eve passed in through the general waiting-room with ns 
magazine-covered table, and tapped at the door beyond 
marked ‘Private". 

‘Eve, dear!" exclaimed Miss Clarkson the moment she had 
entered, ‘1 don’t know how to tell you, but 1 have been look- 
ing through my books and 1 have nothing, simply nothing. 
There is not a single place that you could possibly take. What 
Is to be done ? " 

‘ That’s all right, Clarkic.’ 

‘But../ 

‘1 didn’t come to talk business. I came to ask after Cvnthia, 
i low is she?" 

Miss Clarkson sighed. 

‘Poor child, she is still in a dreadful state and no wonder. 
No news at all fi om her husband. I le has simply deserted her." 

‘ Poor darling! Can’t 1 see hei ?’ 

‘Not at present. 1 have persuaded her to go down t(3 
Brighton for a day or two. I think the sea air will pick her up. 
So mu‘ h better than mooning about in a London hotel. 
She is leaving on the eleven o’clock train. I gave her your 
love, and she was most grateful that you should have 
Tcmcmbered your old friendship and be sorry for her in her 
affliction." 

‘Well, 1 can write to her. Where is she staying?" 

‘I don’t know her Brighton address, but no doubt the 



54 


'Leave it to P smith 


Cadogan Hotel would forward letters. I think she would be 
glad to hear from you, dear.’ 

Eve looked sadly at the framed testimonials which decor- 
ated the wall. She was not often melancholy, but it was such 
a beast of a day and all her friends seemed to be having such 
a bad time. 

‘Oh, Clarkie,' she said, ‘what a lot of trouble there is in the 
world ! ’ 

‘Yes, yesP sighed Miss Clarkson, a specialist on this 
subject. 

‘ All the horses you back hxiish sixth and all the girls you like 
best come croppers. Poor little Phyllis! weren’t you sorry for 
her?’ 

‘But her husband, surel}^ is most devoted?’ 

‘Yes, but she’s frightfully hard up, and you remember how 
opulent she used to be at scho<.>L Of course, it must sound 
funny hearing me piudng people for having no money. But 
somehow other people’s hard-upness always seems so much 
worse than mine. Especially pf>ur old Phyl’s, because she 
really isn’t fit to stand it. I’ve been used to being absolutely 
broke all my life. Poor dear father always st'emed to be writing 
an article against time, with creditors scratching earnestly a‘c 
the door,’ Eve laughed, but her eyes were misty. ‘He was a 
brick, wasn’t he? I mean, sending me to a first class school 
like Wayland House when he often hadn’t enough money to 
buy tobacco, poor angel. 1 expect he wasn’t always up to time 
with fees, was he?’ 

‘Well, my dear, of course I was only an assistant mistres^ 
at Wayland House and had nothing to do with the financial 
side, but I did hear sometimes . . .’ 

‘Poor darling father! Do you know, one of my earliest re- 
collections - I couldn’t have been more than ten - is of a ring 
at the front-door bell and father diving like a seal under the 
sofa and poking his head out and imploring me in a hoarse 
voice to hold the fort. I went to the door and f ; ^ and an indig- 
nant man with a blue paper. I prattled so prettily and inno- 
cently that he not only went away quite contentedly but actu- 



Hve Borrows an Umbrella 


55 

ally patted me on the head and gave me a penny. And when 
the doo^ had shut father crawled out from under the sofa and 
gave me twopence, making threepence in all— a good morn- 
ing’s work. I br)ught father a diamond ring with it at a shop 
down the street, 1 lemembcr. At least I th(^ught it was a dia- 
mond. They mav have swindled me, for 1 was very young,’ 
‘You have had a hard life, dear.’ 

‘Yes, but hasn’t it bten a lark! JVe loved every minute of 
it. Besides, yrm can’t cull me really one of the submerged tenth. 
Uncle Thomas left me a hundred and fifty pounds a year, and 
mercifully I’m not allowed to torch the cajutal. If only there 
were no hats or safety bets in the world, 1 drould be smugly 
opulent. . . . Bui I mustn’t keep you any longer, darkle dear. 
I expect the waiting-room is full of dukes who want cooks 
and cooks who want dukes, all fidgeting and wondering how 
much lf>ngcr you’ie going to keep them. Good-bye, darling.’ 

\nd, liaving kissed Mn . Clarkson fondly and 'Straightened 
her hat, which the othci’s mothciK embrace had disat tanged, 
hvc left the loom. 



C H A P 1 I R 4 


Gainful Scene at i le 'T) tunes Qlub 

M f \ KW HiLi at the Di mes C lub, a rather paintul scene 
hid been taking; plate Psmitb, le joining the shtltei 
ot the building, had made his wat to the 'w^sh loom, wheic, 
ha\ing studied his teatures with intciest tor a moment m the 
rmrro-^, he smoothed his Init, which the rain had somewhat 
disordeted, ind brushed his clothes with t^tTcmc eaie He 
then Went to the clotknKmi tor his 1 lu The attendant 
regarded him as he entered with the ait of one whose mind 
is not wh illv at rest. 

‘Mr dderwick was m hetc a moment nro^ sn,' said the 
atteneiant 

‘Yes'"’ said Psmitb, mildK interested ‘ \n eneigetic, bust- 
i ng soul, Comrade Waldciwiek Alwats somewhere. Now 
here, now theic 

‘Asking about hi^ umbteil i he w^'as/ pursued the attendant 
w ith a touch of ce Idness 

‘Indeed'" Asking about his unbuUi eh-"’ 

‘Made a great fuss about It si he tlid ’ 

‘ \nd rightl},’ siid Psmuh with ippio\ il ‘The good miii 
loves his umb ella ’ 

‘Of course I hiel to te^ him tl at \ou had look it, s i.’ 

‘I would not have it otherwi e, assenteel Psrnith heaitib 
‘J like this spirit of candour. Jhere mu t be no itsetvation , 
no subterfuges betw en )ou anel C oinrtde Waldeiwiek. Let 
ail bt open and above boaid 

‘He scemtd \er) put out, sir He went oil to find }ou * 

‘I am always ,dael of a ehir with Comiade V^aldciwiek/ 
said P mirh. ‘ \lua) ’ 

lie left the cloak room and midt for the hall whcie he de- 
siicd the porter to procuie him a cab This ha\ mg drawn up 
m front of the club, he descended the steps and was about to 



Painful Scene at the Drones Club 5 7 

enter it, when there was a hoarse cry in his rear, and through 
the front door there came bounding a pinkly indignant youth, 
who called loudly: 

‘Here! Hi I Smith I Dash it!* 

Psmith climbed into the cab and gazed benevolently out at 
the new-comer. ^ 

‘ A.h, Comrade Walderwickl’ he said. ^What have we on 
our mmd?* 

‘Where’s my umbrella?’ demanded the pink one. ‘The 
cloak-room waiter says you took my umbrella. 1 mean, a joke’s 
a joke, but that was a dashed good umbrella.’ 

‘It was, indeed,’ Psmith agreed cordially. ‘It may be of 
interest to \ou to know that 1 selected it as the only possible 
one from among a number of competitors. 1 feat this club is 
becoming very tni\ed. Comrade Waldetwick. You with your 
putc inind would hardly believe the rottenness of some of the 
umbrellas I inspected in the cloak-room.’ 

‘Where is it?’ 

‘The cloak-room? You turn to the left as you go in at the 
main entrance and . . 

‘My umbrella, dash it! Where’s mv umbrella'^’ 

‘Ah, there,’ said Psmith. and there was a touch of manly 
1 egret in bis voice, ‘you have me. I gave it to a young lady in 
the street. Where she is at the prc^'Cnt moment I could not 
sav.’ 

The pink youth tottered slight!}. 

‘You gave my umbrella to a ghl?^ 

‘ A very loose way of describing htr. You would not speak 
of her in that light fashion if } ou ha<l seen her. Comrade Wal- 
derwick, she was wonderful! 1 am a plain, blunt, rugged man, 
above t .e softer emotions as a geneial thing, but I frankly con- 
fess that she stirred a chotd in me which is not often stirred. 
She thrilled my battered old heart. Comrade Waldetwick, 
Thcie is no other wo^d. Thtilled it!’ 

‘But, dash it! , . / 

Psmith reached out a long arm anel laid bis hand paternally 
on the othet’s shouldon 



58 


Leave it to Psmih 


^Be btavc. Comrade WalderwickT he said. *Face this thing 
like a man! I am sorry to have been the means of depriving 
you of an excellent umbrella, but as you will readily under- 
stand I had no alternative. It was raining. She was over there, 
crouched despairingly beneath the awning of that shop. She 
wanted to be elsewhere, but the mcusiurc lay in wait to damage 
her hat. What could Ido? What could any man worthy of the 
name do but go down to the cloak-room and pinch the best 
umbrella in sight and take it to her? Y(mrs was ea'^ily the best. 
There was absolutely no comparison. 1 gave it to her, and she 
has gone off with it, happv once more. Ibis explanation,’ said 
Psmitii, ‘will, 1 am sure, sensibly dimmish your natural chag- 
rin. You have Ic^st your umbrella. Comrade \\ alder wick, but 
in what a cause! In w’hat a cause. Comrade Walderwdckl Ycm 
are now entitled to rank with Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter 
Ralegh. The latter is perhaps the closer hist<^rical parallel, lie 
spread hi^ cloak to keep a queen from wetting her feet. You - 
by pr('>xv - yielded up yout umbrella to <-ave a girl’s hat. Pos- 
terin’ will be prf>ud ot \ou, Comrade \^'alde^\vlck. 1 shall be 
vastly surprised if you do not go down in legend and song. 
Children in ag'c> to come will clustci abou^ their giandfathcr's 
knees, saving, ‘"Tell us how the great W'aHerwick lost his 
umbrella, grandpapa!” And he will u II them, and they will rise 
from the recital better, deeper, br(mler childten. . . . But now, 
as I sec that llie driver lias started hw me Ur, I le.ir 1 must con- 
clude this little chat - which 1, for fine, have heattily enjoyed. 
Drive on,’ he said, leaning out of the window. * I want to go 
Xn Ada Clarkson’s International Ivmpl'ijment B'C'cau lu 
Shaftesbur}’ Avenue.’ 

The cab mcjvcd off. The lion. Hugo Waklerwick, after one 
jjassionatc glance i.i its wake, realized that he was getting wet 
and went back into the club. 


Arriving at the address named, Psmith pai<, his cab and, 
having mounted the stairs, delicately knuckled the ground- 
glass window of Enquiries. 



Painful Scene at the Drones Club 59 

‘My dear Miss Clarkson/ he began in an affable voice, the 
instant the window had shot up, ‘ if you can spare me a few 
moments of your valuable time . . 

‘Miss Clarkson’s engaged/ 

Psmith scrutinized her gravely through his mon(x:le. 

‘ Aren’t Miss Clarkson?’ 

Enquiries said she was not. 

‘ Then/ said Psmith, ‘there has been a misunderstanding, for 
which/ he added cordially, ‘ I am to blame. Perhaps I could 
see her anon? You will find me in the waiting-room when re- 
quired. 

He went intc^ the waiting-room, and, having picked up a 
magazine from the table, settled down to read a story in The 
Girls* Pei - the January number of the year 1919, for Employ- 
ment Agencies, like dentists, prefer their literature of a ma- 
tured vintage. He v/as absorbed in ihis when Eve came out of 
the private office. 



CHAPTER 5 


‘^smith oAppIies jor Employment 


P SMITH rose courteously as she entered. 

‘My dear Miss ClaiksiUi/ he said, ^ if [you can spaic me 
a moment of your valuable time . . 

‘Good gracious!* said Eve. ‘ilow extraordinary'!’ 

‘A singular coincidence/ agreed Psmith. 

‘You never gave me time to thank you for the umbrella,' 
said Eve reproachfully. ‘You must have thought me awfully 
■•udc. But you took my breath away.* 

‘ Mv dear Miss Clarl son, plca‘'e do not . . * 

‘Why do you keep calling me that?* 

* Aren’t Miss Clarksc n, cither?’ 

‘Of coarse I’m not.’ 

‘Then,’ said Psmith, ‘I must start my quest all over again. 
These constant checks arc trying to an ardent spirit. Perhaps 
y’ou are a young bride come to engage her first cook?’ 

‘No. I’m not married.’ 

‘Goodl’ 

Eve found his relieved thankfulness a little cmbalra^si^g. In 
the momentary' pause which folltwed his remark, Imcjuints 
entered alertly . 

‘Miss Cdatkson will s c you now, sir.’ 

‘Leave us,’ said Psmith with a wave of his hand. ‘We would 
be alone.’ 

Enquiries stared; then, awed by his manner and general 
appearance of magnificence, withdrew. 

‘I suppfj'.e really,’ said Eve, toying with the umbrella, ‘I 
ought to give this back to yM>u.’ She glanced at the dripping 
window. ‘But K Is raining rather hard, isn’t it?’ 

‘Like the dickens,’ assented Psniith. 

‘Then would you mind very much if I .cpt it till this 
evening?’ 

h } 



^ smith Applies jor Employment Gi 

‘ Please do/ 

^ Thanks ever so much. 1 will send it back to you to-nij^ht 
if you will give me the name and address.’ 

Psmith waved his hand deprccatingly. 

‘ No, no. if it Is ot any use to you, 1 hope that you will Jo( )k 
on it as a present.’ 

A present I ’ 

;nft/ explained Psmith. 

"But 1 really can’t go about accepting expensive umbrellas 
fiom pcopk. Whetc shall 1 send 

‘If you insist, may send it to the lion. Hugo Waldei- 
wjtk, Drones Club, Do\ef Sticcr. But it ically t^'^n’t ncccs‘‘a*‘\ / 

‘ I won’t foi get. And tliank \ ou \ cry much, Mr Waldcrwick 

‘Why do you call me that?’ 

‘Well, you said . . .’ 

CAh, I see. A slight confusion of ideas. No, I am not Mi 
Waldcrwick. And between ouiselves I should hate to be. His 
js a very (A intelhgLncc. Comiade* Waldervick is merely the 
man to whom the umbrella belong^.’ 

Iac’s eyes opened wide. 

‘Do you mean to say \ou gave me somebov^y ciso’s um- 
biclla?’ 

‘I liad unfortunately omittcvl to bting my viwn r>ut with me 
this morning.’ 

‘I ncvci heard of such a thing^’ 

‘ Merely practical Socialism. Other people are content to 
talk about the Redistiibution c f PropeiO . I go out and do jt/ 

‘But won’t he be awfully angi) when hv- finds out it has 
geme?’ 

‘He has found out. And it was prettv to see his delight, I 
explained the circumstances, and he was chains d to have been 
of service to you.’ 

The door opened again, and this time it was Miss Claikson 
m person who entered. She had ftnind Enquiries’ statement 
over the speaking-tube rambling and unsatisfactory, and had 
come to investigate for licrsclf the reason why the machintiy 
of the office was being held up. 



62 Leave it to P smith 

*Oh, I must go/ said Eve, as she saw her. ‘I’m interrupting 
your business/ 

‘Fm so glad voi/rc still here, dear/ said Miss Clarkson. *1 
have just been looking over my files, and I see that there is one 
vacancy. For a nurse,' said Miss Clarkson with a touch of the 
apologetic in her voice. 

‘Oh, no, that’s all right,’ said Eve. ‘I don’t really need any- 
thing. But thanks ever so much for bothering,’ 

She smiled aftcctionately upon the proprietress, bestowed 
another smile upon Psmilh as he opened the door fi^r her, and 
went out. Psmith turned away from the door with a thought- 
ful look upon his face. 

‘Is that young ladv a nurse. he asked. 

‘Do you want a nurse?’ inquired Miss Clarkson, at once the 
w'oman of husincs*-, 

‘1 want tliat nurse,' said Psmith with convictiem. 

‘She is a delightful ghl/ said Miss CLukson with enthusi- 
asm, ‘There IS no one in whom I would feel more confidence 
in recommending to a position. She is a jSIiss llalliday, the 
daughter of a very clevci but enatic writer, who died some 
years ago. I can speak with particular knovdedge of Miss Halli- 
day, for I was foi many years an assistant m.stress at Wayland 
House, where she was at school. She is a charming, warm- 
hearted, impulsive giiJ. . . . But you will haidly want to hear 
all this.’ 

‘On the contrary,’ said Psmith, ‘I could listen for hours. 
You have stumbled upon rny favouiite subject.’ 

Miss Clarkson eved him a little doubtfully, and decided that 
it w'ould be best to reintroduce the lousiness theme. 

‘Perhaps, w’'hen you say you are looking for a lurse, you 
mean you need a hospital nurse?’ 

‘My friends hav^. sometimes suggested it.’ 

‘Miss ] lallichy’s greatest experience has, of ctjurse, been as 
a governe^'S.’ 

‘A governess is just as good,’ said Psmith 'grecably. 

Miss Clarkson began to be consck'us (^f a sensation i>f being 
out of her depth. 



P smith Applies for 'Employment 6} 

‘How' old are your children, sir?^ she asked, 

‘I fear/ said Psmith, ‘you are peeping into Volume Two. 
This romance has only just started.’ 

‘I am afraid,’ said Miss Clarkson, now completely fogged, 
‘I do not quite understand. Wbat exactly are you looking 
for?’ 

Psmith flicked a speck of fluff from his coat-sleeve. 

‘A job,’ he said. 

‘A job!’ echoed Miss Clarkson, her voice breaking in an 
amazed squeak. 

Psmith raised his eyebrows. 

‘You seem surprised. Isn’t this a job emporium?’ 

‘Tills is an Employment Bureau,’ admitted Miss Ciarkson. 

‘I knew it, I knew it,’ said Psmith. ‘Somctliing seemed to 
tell me. Possibly it was Jie legend ‘‘Employment Bureau” 
over the door. And those framed testimonials would convince 
the most sceptical. Yes, Miss Clarkson, I want a job, and I feel 
somehow that you are the woman to find it for me. I have in- 
serted an advertisement in the papers, expressing my readiness 
to undertake any form of employment, but I have since begun 
to wonder if after all this will lead to wealth and fame. At 
any rate, it is wise to attack the great world from another angle 
as well, so I come to you.’ 

‘ But you must excuse me if I remark that tliis application of 
yours strikes me as most extraordinary.’ 

‘Why? I am young, active, and extremely broke.^ 

‘But your er - your clotlies . . 

Psmith squinted, not without complacency, down a fault- 
lessly fitting waistcoat, and flicked another speck of dust off 
his sleeve. 

‘You consider me well dressed?’ he said. ‘You find me 
natty? Well, well, perhaps you arc right, perhaps you are right. 
But consider. Miss Clarkson. If one expects to find employ- 
ment in these days of strenuous competition, one must be 
neatly and decently clad. Employers look askance at a baggy 
trouscr-lcg, A zippy waistcoat is more to them than an honest 
heart. This beautiful crease was obtained with the aid of the 



64 Leave to P smith 

matt less upon which I tossed feverishly last night in my attic 
loom ’ 

‘ I can’t take } ou sciiouolv/ 

‘ Oh, don’t say that, pLase.’ 

‘ ^ ( m ically want me to find } ou woik?* 

" I p^ef^r the term “emploiment”.’ 

Miss Clarkson produced a notebook. 

Mr \ m aic rcall} not mikmg this apphcation just as a 
joke . . 

* £ assure you, no. Mv entac capital consists, in pccie, of 
ah >Lit ten pounds.’ 

‘ Iroi ptihapb 3 ou w ill tell me 3 our name.^ 

‘ Things arc bcinrning to move. The name is Punith. 
P s nilh. The p lb Client.’ 

‘Pbmith"’ 

‘ Psmith.’ 

Clarkson broi/dcd ovci this for a moment m almost 
pi’^cd silcncs, then rcc<ncrsd her slippmg cup (T atfaus 
‘ I thmk,’ sht said, M oa h id better gi\ c me a ft \v particulars 
ab mt \oui elt,' 

‘There IS nothing I should Idc better/ responded Psmirh 
wai mU. *I am alwa} s readv - 1 mav say eager - to tell people 
tht story of my life, but m thi lushing age I get little cncoui- 
agcimnt. 1^1 us start at the bcgmnng ]M\ infancx. When I 
was but a babe, my eldest sister was bribed with sixpence an 
hou^ bv mv nurse to k<.cp an eye on me and see that I did not 
taisc Cam. At the end of the iirst day she stiuck for a shilling, 
and eot it. c now pass to m\ boi h xM. At an t atl} age 1 as 
sent to Lton, cvcrvbod\ pttdietmg a bright career for me. 
Tho V. were happv el 13 s, Mi,s ( kirksun. A merry, laughing lad 
uith curlv hair md a sunny smil^ , it is not too much to say 
that I was the pet of the place. Th^ old cloisters. , * . But I am 
bo-ing irou. I can see it m yoiu eye.’ 

^ \o, no/ protc*,ted Miss ( hrkson. *But what I meant was 
... I thought \ou might have had some e\j ' Lienee m some 
particulai line of . , . In fact, what sort of work • • 

* employment.’ 



65 


P smith Applies for 'Employment 

* What sort of employment do you require?* 

‘Broadly speaking/ said Psmith, ‘any reasonably salaried 
position that has nothing to do with fish/ 

‘Fishr quavered Miss Chrkson, shppmg again. ‘ Wh) fi'rh 
‘Because, Miss Clarkson, the fish tiade was until this morn- 
ing my walk in life, and m} soul has sickened of it ’ 

‘You arc in the fish tiadc squcaketl Miss Clarkson, with an 
amazed glance at the knih like crease m his trousers 

‘These are not m^ working clothes/ said Psmith, following 
and jntcrpretjni.»- her glanci. ‘Yes, iiwing to a financial up- 
heaval in mv blanch ol the family, I was until this morning at 
the heck and call of an uncle who unfoitunately happens to be 
a Mackerel Monarch or a Sardine Sultan, or whiter ei these 
merchant pnnees arc cilkd who rule the fioh market. He 
insisted on m\ gc>ing into the business to learn it from the 
bottom up, '^hinknr, no doubt, hat 1 would follow in his 
footsteps and eventual!} woik m) wa\ to the position of a 
VVhjtehiJt Wizard. Alasf he v is too sanguine It was not to 
be,’ aid Psrmth solemn!}, livng an owl like gaze on Mi s 
C larkson tliruugh his etc gla>s 
‘No'"* sauf Miss ( larkson 

‘No. Last night I was oblige J to mform him that the fish 
bu'-iness was all right, but it wouldn’t do, and inat I proposed 
"■(> sever mv connexion with the fiitn f^ r \.\er. I mi} sav at 
onee that there ensued something in the natuie of a family 
e irthquake. Hard wnirds/ sighed Psmith. ‘‘Blaeiv looks. Un- 
sccml} wranf»^le. And the upshot of it Hi was that m} uncle 
washed Ins hands of me and dio^c me forth into the great 
world Hence mv an\iet\ to find emplovmcnt My uncle has 
defimtcly withdrawm his countenance from me, Miss Clark- 
son.* 

‘Dear, deir^’ murmuied the proprietress s} mpathctically. 
‘Yes. 11c is a haid man, and he )uelgcs his felU^ws solely b} 
their devotion to iish. 1 never in mv life met a man so wrapped 
up m a subject. For }eais he has been practicall} a muno- 
niamac on the subject of fish. So much so th^t he actaall} looks 
like one. It is as if he had taken one of those auto-suggcstion 



66 


heave it to P smith 


courses and had kept saying to himself, ‘Every day, in every 
way, I grow more and more like a fish/ His closest friends can 
hardly tell now whether he more nearly resembles a haUbut or 
a cod. . . . But I am boring you again with this family gossip?* 

He eyed Ivliss Clarkson with such a sudden and penetrating 
glance that she started nervously. 

‘No, no,* she exclaimed. 

‘You relieve my apprehensions. I am only too U’'ell aware 
that, when fairly launched on the topic offish, I am more than 
apt to weary my audience. I cannot understand this enthusiasm 
for fish. My uncle used to talk about an unusually large catch 
of pilchards in Cornwall in much the same awed way as a 
right-minded curate w’ould talk about the spiritual excellence 
of his bishop. To me. Miss Clarkson, from the very start, the 
fish business was what I can only describe as a wash-out. It 
nauseated my finer feclinjrs. It got right in amongst my fibres. 
I had to rise and partake of a simple bicakfast ai ab{;ut four in 
the morning, after which 1 would make my way to Billings- 
gate Market and stand for some hours knee-dec]^ m dead fish 
of every description. A }oliy life lor a cat, no doubt, but a bit 
too thick for a Shropshire Psmith. Mine, Miss Clarkson, is a 
refVied and poetic natuie. 1 like to be surrounded by joy and 
life, and I know nothing muie joyless and deader than a dead 
fish. Multiply that dead fish by a million, and you have an en- 
vironment which only a Dante could contemplate with equa- 
nimity. My uncle used to tell me that the way to ascertain 
whether a fish was fiesh wa^ to peer inr(» its eyes. Could I 
spend the springtime of life staring into the eyes ot dead ii.m? 
No!* He rose. ‘Well, I will not detain you any longer. Thank 
you for the unfailing courtesy and attentifm with which you 
have listened to me. can understand nr^w why my talents 
ate on the market and why I am cfimpdlcd to state specifically 
that no employment can be considered which has anything to 
do with fish. I am convinced that you will shortly have some- 
thing particularly good to oifer me.* 

‘I don*t knov' that I can say that, Mr Psmith.* 

‘The p is silent, as in pshrimp,’ he reminded her. ‘Oh, by 



P smith Applies for Employment 67 

the way,’ he said, pausing at the door, ^ there is one other thing 
before 1 go. While I was waiting for you to be disengaged, I 
chanced on an instalment of a serial story in The Girls* Pei for 
January, 1919. My search for the remaining issues proved 
fruitless. The title was “Her Honour At Stake,” by Jane 
Emmeline Moss. You don’t happen to know how it all came 
out in the end, do you? Did Lord Eustate ever learn that, 
when he found Clouet m Sir Jasper’s rooms at midnight, she 
had only gone thire to recover some compromising letters 
for a g rl friend? Yoj don’t know? I fcand as much. VC ell, 
good morning. Miss Cdatkson, good moining. 1 leave my 
futute in your hands with a light heart.’ 

H will do my best for \ou, of couisc.’ 

‘And what,’ said Psnutb cordially, ‘could be better than 
Miss Claiks^n's best?’ 

He closed the door genth benind him, and went out. 
Struck by a kindly thought, he tapped upon Enquiries’ win- 
dov', and beamed benev viJently as bet bobbed I cad shot into 
view. 

‘They tell me,’ he said, ‘that Aspidistra is much fancied for 
the four oYIch k race at Birmingham this afternoon. 1 give the 
information without prejudice, for whai it is worth. Good 
day I* 



ClIAPH R 6 

I^or^ 6msiporih o^^eeis a Poet 

I 

T he rain had stopped when Psmith steppied out into the 
stieet, and the sun was shining again in that half blustti- 
ing, half apol('>getic manner which it adt els on its reappearance 
aftci a summer shower. The pa\cments glistened cheerfully^ 
and the air had a ^^clcome freshness. Pausing ar the corner, he 
pondered for a moment as to the best method of passing the 
hour and twenty minutes which must clap e bcfoie he could 
reasonably think f>f lunching* The fact that the ofliees of tlie 
Mormng Globe wc.c within easy strolling distance decided him 
to go thither and see if the first post had brought anything in 
the shape of answers to his advertisements. And his energy 
was rewarded a few minutes later when Box 365 on being 
opened yielded up quire a little budget of literary matter. No 
fewer than seven letters all. \ nice bag. 

>X'hat, however, had appealed at first sight evidence of a 
pleasing ebullition of enterprise on the part of the newspaper- 
reading public turned out on closer inspection, when he had 
retired to a corner when he could concentrate in peace, a hol- 
low delusion. ILntcrpusing in a sense though the communica- 
tions were - and they certainly showed the writci s as men 01 
considerable gmger and business push ro Psmith t icy came 
as a disappointment. Jle had expected better things. These 
letters were not at all what he had paid good money to receive. 
They missed the point altogether. The right spirit, it seemed 
to him, was enorely’’ absent. 

The first envelope, attracts c though it looked from the out- 
side, being of an expensive brand of statiorriy and gaily 
adorned with a somewhat startling ctest, merely contained a 
pleasantly-worded offer from a Mr Alistair MacDougall to ad- 
os 



Lord Emsworth Meets a Poet 69 

vance him any sum from ten to fifty thousand pounds on his 
note of hand only. The second revealed a similar proposal 
from another Scot named Colin MacDonald. While in the 
third Mr Ian Campbell was prepared to go as high as one hun- 
dred thousand. All three philanthropists had but one sripula- 
lion to make - they world have no dealings with minors. 
Youth, with all its glorious traditions, did not seem to appeal 
to them. But they cordially urged Psmith, in the event of his 
having celebrated his twenty-first birthday, to come round to 
the offi''e and take the stuff away in a sack. 

Keeping his head well in the midst of this shower of riches, 
Psmith dropped the three letters with a sigh into the waste- 
paper basket, and opened the next m order. This was a bulky 
envelope, and its contents consisted of a printed brochure en- 
titled, ‘This Night Sliall Thy Soul Be Required Of Thee’ - 
while, by a ct rious and appropriate coincidence. Number Five 
proved to be a circular from an energetic firm of coffin-makers 
offering to bury him for eight pounds ten. Number Stx, also 
printed, was a manifesto from one Howard Hill, of New- 
market, recommending him to apply wnliout delay for ‘ HiU’s 
Three-Horse Special,’ without which - (' Who,’ demanded Mr 
Hill m large type, ‘gave \ou Wibbly-Wob for the Jubilee 
Cup?’) - no sportsman could hope to accomplish the undoing 
of the boi^kmakers. 

Although by doing so he cf)m icted himself of that very lack 
of enterprise which he had been deploring in the great public, 
Psrnitli placed this ccrmmunication wuh the others in the 
waste-paper basket. There now remained only Number Seven, 
and a slight dicker of hope returned to him when he perceived 
that this envelope was addressed by hand and not in type- 
script. lie opened it. 

Beyond a doubt he had kept the pick of the bunch to the 
last. Here was something that made up for all those other dis- 
appointments. Written in a scrawly and apparently agitated 
hand, the letter ran as follows : 

If R. Psmith will meet tlje writer in the lobby of the 
Piccadilly Palace Hotel at twelve sharp, Friday, July i. 



7 ^ 


Leave it to P smith 


business may result If business meant and terms reasonable. 
R. P smith will wear a pink chrysanthmum in his button^ 
boky and will say to the writer ^ ‘ There will be ram in 
Northumberland io-morronf to which the writer will rtply^ 
^Good for the crops J" Kindly be pumtuaL 

A pleased smile played about Psmith’s solemn face as he 
read this communication for the second time. It was much 
more the sort of thing for which he had been hoping. Al- 
though his closest friend. Alike Jackson, was a young man of 
complete ordinariness, Psmith’s tastes when he sougln com- 
panionship lay as a rule in the dncction ot the bizarre, lie pre- 
ferred his humanity eccentric. And ‘the writer’, to judge him 
by this specimen of his correspondence, appeared to be eccen- 
tric enough tor the most exactiner ta^te. \Vhctlicr this promis- 
ing pcrsrm turned out to be a ribald jcstci or an earnest crank, 
Psmifh felt no doubt whatever as to the advl^abilIty of follow- 
ing the inattcr up. Whichever he might be, his society ought 
to afford entertainment during the interval bedbic lunch, 
Psmith glanced at his w’atch. The hour w’as a quarter to 
twelve. lie would be able to secure the necessary chrysanthe- 
mum and reach the Piccadilh Palace Hotel by twelve sharp, 
thus achieving the businesslike punctuality on which tne un- 
kncjwn writer seemed to set ‘^urh store. 


It was not until he had entered a fl^ri^^t’s shop on the W'^y 
to the tryst that it was borne in upon him tliat the adventure 
was going to have its drawhacl.s. The lirsr of thv-sc was the 
chryv^anthemum. Preoccupied with the rest of the communica- 
tion, Psmith, when he had read the letter, had not given much 
thought to the dec(3ration which if would be necessary f<')r 
him to wear; ard it was f>nly when, in reply to his demand for 
a chrysantliemum, the florist came fi'iward, . Imost hidden, 
like the army at Dunsinanc, behind what loo .cd like a small 
shrubbery, that he realized what he, a correct and fastidious 
dresser, was up against. 



Lord Emsmrth Meets a Poet 


71 


‘Is that a chrysanthemum?^ 

‘ Yes, sir. Pink chrysanthemum.* 

‘Oner 

‘Y'es, sir. One pink chrysanthemum.* 

Psmith rei?ardcd the repellent object with disfavour through 
his eyeglass. Then, having placed it in his buttonhole, he pro- 
ceeded on his way, feeling like some wild thing peering 
through the undergrowth. The distressing shrub completely 
spfulcd his walk. 

Arrr ed at the hotel and standing in the lobby, he perceived 
the existence of further coinpheatjons. The lobby was in its 
usual state of congestion, it being a recognized meeting-place 
for those who did not find it convenient to go as far east as 
that traditional rendezvous of l-.ondoners, the spot under the 
clock at Charing Cross Station; and ‘the writer % while giving 
instructions to how Psmith should ornament his exterior, 
had carelessly omitted to mention how he himself Avas to be 
recognized. A rollicking, slap-dash conspirator, >\’as Psmith’s 
opinion. 

It seemed best to take up a position as nearly as possible in 
the centre of the lobby and stand there until ‘ the writer ’, lured 
by the chrysanthemum, should come forv^^ard and start some- 
thing. This he accordingly dkl, but when at the end of ten 
minutes notliing had happened beyond a series of collisions 
with perhaps a dozen hurrying visitors to the hotel, he decided 
on a more active course. A young man of spoiling appearance 
had been standing beside him for the last five minutes, and 
ever and anon this young man had glanced with some im- 
patience at his watch. He was plainly waiting for someone, so 
Psmith tried the formula on him, 

‘There will be rain,’ said Psmith, ‘in Nor thumbei land to- 
me ncow.’ 

The young man looked at him, not without interest, cer- 
tainly, but without that gleam of intelligence in his eye which 
Psmith had hoped to sec. 

‘What?’ he replied. 

‘There will be rain in Northumberland tomorrow/ 



7 ^ 


Leai^e it to 'P smith 


* Thanks, Zadkiel,’ said the young man. * Deuced gratifying, 
I’m sure. I suppose you couldn’t predict the winner of the 
Goodwood Cup as well?’ 

He then withdrew rapidly to intercept a young woman in a 
large hat who had just come through the swing doors. Psmith 
was forced to the conclusion that this was not his man. He 
was sorry on the whole, for he had seemed a pleasant fellow. 

As Psmitli had taken up a stationary position and the popu- 
lation of the lobby was for the most part in a state of flux, he 
was finding himself next to someone new all the time; and 
now he decided to accost the individual whom the re-shuffle 
had just brought elbow to elbow with him. This was a jovial- 
looking soul with a flowered waistcoat, a white hat, and a 
mottled face. Just the man who might liave written that letter. 

The effect upon this person of Psmith’s meteorological remark 
was instantaneous. A light of the utmost friendliness shone in his 
beautifully-shaven face as he turned. He sei2ed Psmith’s hand 
and gripped it with a delightful heartiness. He had the air of 
a man who has found a friend, and what is more, an old friend. 
He had a sort of journeys-end-in-lovers’-meeting look. 

^My dear old chap!’ he cried. H’ve been waiting for you to 
speak for the last five mixiutes. Knew we’d met before some- 
where, but couldn’t place you. Face familiar as the dickens, of 
course. Well, well, well! And how are they all?’ 

* Who?’ said Psmith courteously. 

‘Why, the boys, my dear chap.’ 

‘Oh, the boys?’ 

‘The dear old boys,’ said the other, specitying more exactly. 
He slapped Psmith on the shoulder, ‘ Wlat times tliose were, 
ch?’ 

‘Which?’ said Psmith. 

‘The times we all used to have together.’ 

‘Oh, thoseV said Pvsmith. 

Something of discouragement seemed to c'’"*cp over the 
other’s exuberance, as a cloud creeps over tht summer sky. 
But he persevered. 

‘ Fancy meeting you again like this I ’ 



Lord Lmswortb Meets a Poet 


75 


*It is a small world/ agreed Psmith. 

*rd ask you to come and have a drink/ said the jovial one, 
with the slight increase of tensity which comes to a man who 
approaches the core of a business deal, ‘but the fact is my ass 
of a man sent me out this morning without a penny. Forgot 
to give me my note-case. Damn careless 1 I’ll have to sack the 
fellow/ 

‘Annoying, certainly/ said Psmith. 

‘I wish I could have stood you a drink/ said the other wist- 
fully. 

‘Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 
“It might have been”,’ sighed Psmith. 

‘I’ll tell you what/ said the jovial one, inspired. ‘Lend me a 
fiver, my dear old boy. That’s the best way out of the diffi- 
culty. I can send it round to your hotel or wherever you are 
this evening when I get home.’ 

A sweet, sad smile played over Psmith’s face. 

‘Leave me, comrade!’ he murmured. 

‘Eh?’ 

‘Pass along, old friend, pass along/ 

Resignation displaced jc»viality in the other’s countenance. 

‘Nothing doing?’ he inquired. 

‘Nothing.’ 

‘Well, there was no harm in trying,’ argued the ottier. 

‘None whatever,’ 

‘ You see,’ said the now far less jovial man confidentially, ‘ you 
look such a perfect mug with that eyeglass that it tempts a chap. ’ 

‘1 can quite understand how it must!’ 

‘No offence.’ 

‘Assuredly not.’ 

The white hat disappeared through the swing doors, and 
Psmith returned to his quest. He engaged the attention of a 
middle-aged man in a snuff-coloured suit who had just come 
within hail. 

‘ There will be rain in Northumberland to-morrow,’ he said. 

The man peered at him inquiringly. 

‘Hev?’ he said. 



74 


heave it to P smith 


Psmith repeated his observation, 
said the man. 

Psmith was beginning to lose the unruffled calm which made 
him such an impressive figure to the public eye. He had not 
taken into consideration the possibility^ tliat the object of his 
search might be deaf. It undoubtedly added to the embarrass- 
ment of the pursuit. He was moving awav, when a hand fell on 
his sleeve. 

Psmith turned. The hand which still grasped his sleeve be- 
longed to an elegantly dressed young man t>f somewhat ner- 
vous and feverish appearance. During his recent vigil Psmitii 
had noticed this young man standing not far away", and had 
had half a mind to include him in the platoon of new friends 
he was making that morning. 

vsay^’ said this young niiin in a tense whisper, 'did I hear you 
say that there would be rain in Northumberland tt)-morrow?' 

'If/ said Smith, ‘you were anywheic within the radius of a 
dozen yards while 1 was chatting woth the recent deaf adder, 
1 think it is p(;ssible that y^ou did.’ 

‘Good for the crops/ said the young man. ‘Come over here 
where we can talk quietly'.’ 

*So you’re R. Psmith?’ said ^hc young man, when they had 
made their way to a remote corner of the lobby, apart from the 
throng. 

‘The same.’ 

‘1 say, dash it, y'ou’re frightfully late, you knew. I told you 
to be here at twelve sharp. It’s neatly twelve past.’ 

'■You wrong me/ said Psmith. ‘ I arrived here precisely at 
twelve. Since when, I have been standing like Patience on a 
monument. . . 

‘ Like what?’ 

‘Let it go,’ said Psmith. ‘ It is not imp(>rtant.’ 

‘I asked you to wear a pink chrysanthemurx So I could 
recognize you, you know.’ 

‘ 1 am wearing a pink chrysanthemum. I should have imag- 



Ljord Emsworth Meels a Poet 75: 

ined th*<t that was a fact that the most casual could hardly have 
ovei looked.’ 

‘That thing The other ga/cd djspatagingly at the floral 
decoiation. ‘1 thoiitrln u was some kjnJ of cabbage. 1 meant 
one of those little what-d’}ou-mav-call-its that people do wear 
in their button-holes.’ 

‘C 'matron, pos^it^lvr^ 

‘Carnation! Thit’^ nirht.’ 

Psmith rcmo/cd the ehr}santhcmum and drt)ppcd it behind 
his chair. He looked at his comjaPxion k pioachtally. 

‘If y>u had studied Iiotanv at schf>ol, comrade/ he said, 
‘much miscrv might have been avc rtecL I cannot begin to tell 
you the spiritual agonv 1 suhered, trailing thiough the metio 
polls behind llun shrub/ 

Whatever decent sMnpithv and remorse the other might 
ha\ e shown at these woid> was swept aw a} in the shock re‘-ul- 
tant on a glance at his watch. Not fot an instant dunng this 
biief return of his to London had Ineddic Timepwood been 
unmindful of his tathei’s stern injunction to him to catch the 
twehL-fiftv tram back to Market Blandings. P he misled it, 
there would be thv deuce of a lot of unpleasantness, and un- 
pleasantness in the home' was the one thing Freddie wanted 
to a\ Old nowaday s , foi, like a piudcnt convict in a piison, he 
hoped b> exemplary beha^ lonr to ret his sentenee of impuscm- 
ment at Blanclinrs C is»le reduced ten good copduc.r. 

‘Cjood I.ord! l\e only g<^)t aboir ft\e minutes. Got to talk 
cjuiek. ... About this thing. This busmens. That advertise- 
ment of yours.’ 

‘Ah, i\l\ ad\ citisemeiit. It interested you?’ 

‘Wi It on the level 

‘ \ssutedlv. We Psmiths do not deeci\e/ 

I rcdclic looked at him doubtfully. 

‘^"ou know, you aren’t a hit like 1 c\pccled you’d be.’ 

‘In what respect/ iiK|micd Psinith, ‘do I fall slioct of the 
ideal?’ 

Ht isn’t so much falling short. It’s - oh, I don’t know . . • 
Well, yes, if you wan to knon , I thought you’a be a tougher 



l^ave it to Psmith 


76 

specimen altogether* I got the impression from your advertise- 
ment that you were down and out and ready for anything, and 
you look as if you were on your way to a garden-party at 
Buckingham Palace.’ 

‘Ahr said Psmith, enlightened. ^It is my costume that is 
causing these doubts in your mind. This is the second time 
this morning that such a misunderstanding has occurred. Have 
no misgivings. These trousers may sit well, but, if they do, it 
is because the pockets are empty.’ 

‘Are you really broke!* 

‘As broke as the Ten Commandments.* 

‘Tm hanged if I can believe it.* 

‘Suppose I brush my hat the wrong way for a moment?* 
said Psmith obligingly. ‘Would that help?’ 

His companion remained silent for a few moments. In '^pitc 
of the fact that he was in so great a hurry and that every 
minute that passed brought nearer the moment when he would 
be compelled to tear liimsclf away and make a dash for Pad- 
dington Station, Freddie was finding it difficult to open the 
subject he had come there to discuss. 

‘Look here,* he said at length, ‘I shall have to trust you, 
dash it,* 

‘You could pursue no better course.’ 

‘It*s like this. I’m trying to raise a thousand quid . . 

‘I regret that I cannot offer to advance it to you myself. 1 
have, indeed, already been compelled to decline to lend a 
gentleman who claimed to be an old friend of mine so small r 
sum as a fiver. But there is a dear obliging soul of the name of 
Alistair MacDougall who ... * 

‘Good Lord! You don’t think I’m trying to touch you?* 

‘That impression did flit through my mind.’ 

‘ Oh, dash it, no. No, but - well, as 1 was saying, I’m friglit- 
fully keen to get Ivold of a thousand quid.’ 

‘So am I,* said Psmith. ‘Two minds with t ut a single 
thought. How do you propose to start about it? For my part, 
I must freely confess that I haven't a notion, I am stumped. 
The cry goes round the chancelleries, “Psmith is baffled!”’ 



JLord Rmsmrth Meets a Poet ^ jy 

"I say, old thing/ said Freddie plaintively, *you couldn't 
talk a bit less, could you? Fve only got about two minutes/ 

‘I beg your pardon. Proceed.’ 

‘It’s so dashed difTicult to know how to begin the thing. 1 
mean, it’s all a bit complicated till you get the hang of it. . . . 
Look here, you said in your advertisement that you had no 
objection to crime.’ 

Psmith considered the point. 

‘Within reason - and jf undetected - I see no objection to 
two'-pennorth of crime/ 

‘Well, look here . . . look here . . - Well, look here/ said 
Freddie, ‘will you steal my aunt’s diamond necklace?’ 

Psmith placed his monocle in his eye and bent gravely to- 
ward his companion. 

‘Steal your aunt’s necklace?’ he said indulgently, 

‘ Yes/ 

‘You do not think she might consider It a liberty from one 
to whom she has never been introduced?’ 

What Freddie might have replied to liiis pertinent question 
will never be known, for at this moment, looldng nervously 
at his watch for the twentieth time, he observed that the hands 
had passed the half-hour and were well on their way to twenty- 
five minutes to one. He bounded up with a cry. 

‘I must go! I shall miss that damned trainl’ 

* And meanwhile . , ,?’ said Psmith, 

The familiar phrase - the words ‘And meanwhile^ had oc- 
curred at least once in every film Freddie had ever seen - had 
the effect of wrenching the latter’s mind back to the subject in 
hand for a moment. Freddie w'as not a clear-thinking young 
man, hut even he could see that he had left the negotiations 
suspended at a very unsatisfactory point. Nevertheless, he had 
to catch that twelve-fifty. 

‘ Write and tell me what you think about it, panted Freddie, 
skimming through the lobby like a swallow, 

*You have unfortunately omitted to leave a name and 
address,’ Psmith pointed out, following him at an easy jog-trot. 

In spite of his hurry, a prudence born of much movie-seeing 



LiCave it to Psmth 


78 

restrained Freddie from supplying the information asked for. 
Give away your name and address and you never knew what 
might happen. 

‘I’ll write to you,’ he cried, racing for a cab. 

‘I shall count the minutes,’ said Psmith courteously. 

‘Drive like blazes 1’ said Freddie to the chauffeur. 

‘Where?’ inquired the man, not unreasonably. 

‘Eh? Oh, Paddington.’ 

The cab wliirled off, and Psmith, pleasantly conscious of a 
morning not ill-spent, gazed after it pensively for a moment. 
Then, with the feeling that the authorities of Colncy Hatch or 
some kindred establishment had been extraordinarily negligent, 
he permitted his mind to turn with genial anticipation in the 
direction of lunch. For, though he had celebrated his first day of 
emancipation from Billingsgate Fish Market by rising late and 
breakfasting later, he had become aware by now of that not un- 
pleasant emptiness which is the silent lunchcon-gong of the soul. 

Ill 

The minor problem no^vv piescnted itself of where to lunch; 
and with scarcely a moment’s consideration he dismissed those 
large, noisy, and bustling restaurants which he near Piccadilly 
Circus. After a morning spent with Eve Halliday and the 
young man who was going about the place asking people to 
steal his aunt’s necklace, it was imperative that he select some 
place where he could sit and think quietly. Any food of which 
he partook must be consumed in calm, even cloistral sur- 
roundings, unpolluted by the presence of a first violin who 
tied himself into knots and an orchestra in whose lexicon there 
was no such word as piano. One of his clubs seemed indicated. 

In the days of his prosperity, Psmirh’s father, an enthusiastic 
clubman, had enrolled his son’s name on the list of several in- 
stitutions : and now, although the lean years had arrived, he 
was still a member of six, and would continue to be a member 
till the beginning of the new year and the consequent call for 
fresh subscriptions. These clubs ranged from ti'»e Drones, 
frankly frivolous, to the Senior Conservative, solidly^ worthy. 



Lord Emsworth Meets a Voet 79 

Almost immediately Psmith decided that for such a mood as 
was upon him at the moment, the latter might have been 
specially constructed. 

Anybody familiar with the interior of the Senior Conserva- 
tive Club would have applauded his choice. In the whole of 
London no better haven could have been found by one desir- 
ous of staying his interior "vith excellently-cooked food while 
passing his soul under a leisurely examination. They fed you 
well ai the Drones, too, no doubt; but there Youth held car- 
nival, and the thoughtful man, examining his soul, was apt at 
any moment to have his meditations broken in upon by a 
chunk of bread, dcxcerously thrown by some bright spirit at 
an adjoining table. No horror of that descriptiem could possi- 
bly occur at the Senior Conservative. The Senior Conservative 
has six thousand one bundled and eleven members. Some of 
the six thousand one hundred and eleven are more respectable 
than the othei s, but they are all respectable - whether they be 
numbered among the oldest inhabitants like the Earl of Ems- 
worth, who joined as a country member in 1888, or are among 
the recent creations of the last election of candidates. They are 
bald, reverend men, who look as if they arc on their way to the 
City to preside at directors' meetings or have dropped in after 
conferring with the Prime Minister at Downing Street as to 
the prospects at the coming by-clection in the Little Wabsley 
Division. 

With the quiet dignity which atoned for his lack in years in 
this stronghold of mellow worth, Psmith mounted the steps, 
passed through the doors which were obligingly flung open 
for him by two uniformed dignitaries, and made his way to 
the coffee-room, fiere, having selected a table in the middle of 
the room and ordered a simple and appetizing lunch, he gave 
himself up to thoughts of Eve Ilalhday. As he had confessed 
to his young friend Mr. Walderwick, she had made a powerful 
impression upon him. 1 Ic was tearing himself from his day- 
dreams in order to wrestle with a mutton chop, when a foreign 
body shot into his orbit and blundered heavily against the 
table. Looking up, he perceived a long, thin, elderly gentleman 



8o Leave it to Psmith 

of pleasantly vague aspect, who immediately began to apolo 
gize. 

^My dear sir, I am extremely sorry. I trust 1 have caused no 
damage.’ 

‘None whatever,’ replied Psmith courteously. 

‘The fact is, I have mislaid my glasses. Bhnd as a bat with- 
out them. Can’t see where I’m going.’ 

A gloomy-looking young man with long and disordered 
hair, who stood at the eldcily gentleman’s clb(W, coughed 
suggestively. He was shuffling restlessly, and appeared to be 
anxious to close the episode and move on. A \oung man, evi- 
dently, of highly-strung temperament, lie had a sullen air. 

The elderly gentleman started vaguely at the sound of ihe 
cough. 

‘Eh.^’ he said, as if in answer to some spoken remark. ‘Oh, 
yes, quite so, quite so, mv dear fellow. Mustn’t stop here chat- 
ting, eh? Had to apologize, though. Nearly upset tins gentle- 
man's tabic. Can’t see where I’m going without my glasses. 
Blind as a bat. Ehr What? Quite so, quite so.’ 

He ambled off, doddering cheerfully, while his companion 
still preserved his look of sulky aloofness. Psimth gazed attei 
them with interest. 

‘Can you tell me,’ lie asked of the waiter, who was rallying 
round with the potatoes, ‘\rho that was?’ 

The waiter followed his glance. 

‘Don’t know who the young gentleman is, sir. Guest here, 
I fancy. The old gentleman is the P^arl of Etns worth. Lives in 
the country and doesn’t often come to the club. Very absent- 
minded gentleman, they tell me. Potatoes, sit?’ 

‘Thank you,’ said Psmith. 

The waiter drifted away, and returned. 

‘I have been looking at the guest-hook, sir. The name of the 
gentleman lunching with Lord Ems worth is Mr Ralston 
McTodd.’ 

‘ Thank yt >u verv much. 1 am sorry yoM had the trouble.’ 

‘No trouble, sir.’ 

Psmith resumed his meal. 



Lord Emsworfh Meets a Poet 8 1 

IV 

The sullen demeanour of the young man who had accom- 
panied Lord Emsworth through the cofFec-room accurately 
reflected the emotions which were vexing his troubled soul. 
Ralston McTodd, the powerful young singer of Saskatoon 
(‘Plumbs the depths of human emotion and strikes a new 
note’ - Montreal Star. ‘Very readable’ - Ipsllanti Herald^ had 
not enjoyed his lunch. The pleasing sense of importance in- 
duced by the fact that for the first time in his life he was hob- 
nobbing with a genuine earl had given way after ten minutes 
of his ho t’s socitty to a mingled tlcspair and irritation which 
had grown steadilv deeper as the meal proceeded. Ji is not too 
much to say that by the time the fish course arrived it would 
have been a relief to Mr McTodd’s feelings if he could have 
taken up the butter-dish and banged it down, butter and all, 
on his ](mlship’s bald head. 

A temperamental young man was Ralston McTcxld. He 
liked to be the centre of the picture, to do the talking, to air 
his views, to be listened to respectfully and with Litcrest by a 
submissive audience. At the meal which Had just concluded 
none of these reasonable demand-^ had been permitted to him. 
From the very beginning. Lord Emswe^rth had collared the 
conversation and held it with a gentle, bleating persistence 
against all assaults. Five times had Mr McTodd almost suc- 
ceeded in launching one of his best epigiarns, only to see it 
swept away on the tossing flood of a lecture on hollyhocks. 
At the sixth attempt he had managed to gel it out, complete 
and spaikling, and the (M ass opposite him had taken it in his 
stride like a hurdle and gone galloping otf about the mental 
and moral defects of a cicature named Angus McAllister, who 
appeared to be his head gardener or something of the kind. 
The luncheon, though he was a hearty feeder and as a rule 
appreciative of good cooking, had turned to ashes in Mr 
McTodd’s mouth, and it was a soured and chafi^ig Singer of 
Saskatoon who dropped scowlingly into an arm-chair by the 
window of the lower smoking-room a few moments later. We 



82 


Leave it to Psmith 


introduce Ralston McTodd to the reader, in short, at a mo- 
ment when he is very near the breaking-point. A little more 
provocation, and goodness knows what he may not do. For the 
time being, he is merely leaning back in his chair and scowling. 
He has a faint hope, however, that a cigar may bring some sort 
of relief, and he is waiting for one to be ordered for him. 

The Earl of Emsworth did not see the scowl. He had not 
really seen Mr McTodd at all from the moment of his arrival 
at the club, when somebody, who sounded like the head 
porter, had informed him that a gentleman was waiting to see 
him and had led him up to a shapeless blur which had intro- 
duced itself as his expected guest. The loss of his glasses had 
had its usual effect on Lord Emswe^rth, making the world a 
misty place in which indefinite objects swam dimly like fish in 
muddy water. Not that this mattered much, seeing that he was 
in London, for in Lond(m there was never anything worth 
looking at. Beyond a vague feeling that it would be more com- 
fortable on the whole if he had his glasses - a feeling just 
strong enough to have made him send off a messenger boy to his 
hotel to hunt for them - Lord Emsworth had not allowed lack 
of vision to interfere with his enjoyment of the proceedings. 

And, unlike Mr McTodd, he had been enjoying himself very 
much, A good listener, this young man, he Lir. Very soothing, ■ 
the way he had constituted himself a willing- audience, never 
interrupting or thrusting himself forward, as is so often the 
deplorable tendency of the modern young man. Lord Ems- 
worth was bound to admit that, much as he had disliked the 
idea of going to London +o pick up tiiis poet or whatever he 
was, the thing had turned out better than he had expected. 
He liked Mr McTodd’s silent but obvious interest m {l(')wers, 
his tacit but warm-hearted sympathy in the matter of Angus 
McAllister. He was glad he was coming to Blandings. It would 
be agreeable to conduct him personally through the gardens, 
to introduce him to Angus McAllister and allow him to plumb 
for himself the black abysses of that outcast’s mental processes. 

Meanwhile, he had forgotten all about or.'^ering that 
cigar . . • 



Lj)rd Emswortb Meets a Poet 8 } 

'in large gardens where ample space permits/ said Lord 
Emsworth, dropping cosily into his chair and taking up the 
conversation at the point where it had been broken off, 
‘nothing is more desirable than that there should be some 
places, or one at least, of quiet greenery alone, without any 
flowers whatever. I see that you agree with me.’ 

Mr McTodd had not agreed with him. The grunt which 
Lord Emsworth had taken for an exclamation of rapturous 
adhesion to his sentiments had been merely a sort of bubble of 
sound rising from the tortured depths of Mr McTodd’s suffer- 
ing soul ~ the cry, as the poet beautifully puts it, ‘of some 
strong smoker in his agony/ The desire to smoke had now 
gripped Mr McTodd’s very vitals; but, as some lingering re- 
mains of the social sense kept him from asking point-blank for 
the cigar for which he yearned, he sought in his mind for a 
way of approaching the subject obliquely. 

‘In no other way,’ proceeded Lord Emsworth, ‘can the 
brilliancy of flowers be so keenly enjoyed as by . . / 

‘Talking of flowers,’ said Mr McTodd, ‘ it is a fact, 1 believe, 
that tobacco smoke is good for roses/ 

, as by pacing for a time,’ said Lord Emsworth, ‘in some 
cool, green alley, and then passing on to the flo^exty places. 
It is partly, no doubt, the unconscious working out of some 
optical law, the explanation of which in everyday language is 
that the eye . . . ’ 

‘ Some people say that smoking is bad for the eyes. I don’t 
agree with then,’ said Mr McTodd warmly. 

. being, as it were, saturated with the green colour, is the 
more attuned to receive the others, especially the reds. It was 
probably some such consideration that influenced the design- 
ers of the many old gardens of England in devoting so much 
attention ro the cult of the yew tree. When you come to Bland- 
ings, my dear fellow, I will show you our celebrated yew alley. 
And, when you see it, you will agree that 1 was right in taking 
the stand 1 did against Angus McAllister’s pernicious views.’ 

‘I was lunching in a club yesterday/ said Mr McTodd, 
with the splendid McTodd doggedness, ‘where they had no 



Leave it to P smith 


84 

matches on the tables in the smoking-room. Only spills. It 
made it very inconvenient . . / 

‘Angus McAllister/ said Lord Ems worth, ‘is a professional 
gardener. I need say no more. You know as well as I do, my 
dear fellow, what professional gardeners are like when it is a 
question of moss . . .* 

‘What it meant was that, when you wanted to light your 
after-luncheon cigar, you had to get up and go to a gas-burner 
on a bracket at the other end of the room . . / 

‘Moss, for some obscure reason, appears to infuriate them. 
It rouses their basest passions. Nature intended a yew alley to 
be carpeted with a mossy growth. The mossy path in the yew 
alley at Blaiidings is in true relation for colour to the trees and 
grassy edges ; yet will you credit it that that soulless disgrace 
to Scotland actually wished to grub it ail up and have a rolled 
gravel path staring up from beneath those immemorial trees I 
I have already told you how I was compelled to give in to him 
in the matter of the hollyhocks - head gardeners of any ability 
at all are rare in these days and one has to make concessions - 
but this was too much. I was perfectly friendly and civil about 
it, “Certainly, McAllister,” I said, “you may have your gravel 
path if you wish it. I make but one proviso, that you construct 
it over my dead body, Onlv when 1 am vreltering in my blood' 
on the threshold of that yew alley shall you disturb one inch 
of my beautiful moss. Try to remember, McAllister,” I said, 
still quite cordially, “that you are not laying out a recreation 
ground in a Glasgow suburb - you are proposing to make an 
eyesore of what is possibly the most beautiful nook in one of 
the finest and oldest gardens in the United Kingdom.” He 
made some repulsive Scotch noise at the back of his throat, 
and there the matter rests. • • • Let me, my dear fellow,* said 
Lord Emsworth, writhing down into the depths of his chair 
like an aristocratic snake until his spine rested snugly against 
the leather, Tet me describe for you the Yew Alley at Bland- 
ings. Entering from the west . . 

Mr McTodd gave up the struggle and sank ba^ i., filled with 
black and deleterious thoughts, into a tobacco-iess hell. The 



hord Emsworlh Meets a Poet 85 

smoking-room was full now, and on all sides fragrant blue 
clouds arose from the littJe groups of serious thinkers who 
were discussing what Gladstone had said in ’78. Mr McTodd, 
as he watched them, had something of the emotions of the 
Peri excluded from Paradise. So reduced was he by this time 
that he would have accepted gratefully the meanest straight- 
cut cigarette in place of the Corona of his dreams. But even 
this poor substitute for smoking was denied him. 

Lord Emsworth droned on. Having approached from the 
west, he was now well inside the yew alley. 

‘Many of the yews, no doubt, have taken forms other than 
those that were originally designed. Some are like turned chess- 
men; some might be taken for adaptations of human figures, 
for one can trace here and there a hat-coveted head or a spread- 
ing petticoat. Some rise in solid blocks with rounded roof and 
stcmless mushroom finial. These ha\ c for the most part arched 
recesses, forming arbours. One of tho tallest . . . Eh? What?’ 

Lord Emswort h blinked vaguely at the waiter who had sidled 
up. A moment before he had been a hundred odd miles away and 
it was not easy to adjust his mind immediately to the fact that he 
was in the smoking-room of the Senior Conservative Club. 

‘Eh? What?’ 

‘A messenger bi)y has just arrived with these, your lordship.’ 

Lord Emsworth peered in a dazed and woolly manner at the 
pr(^fFered spectacle-case. Intelligence returned to him. 

‘Oh, thank you. Thank you verv much, Mv glasses. 
Capital! Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ 

lie removed the glasses from their case and placed them on 
his nose : and instantly the world sprang into being before his 
eyes, sharp and well-defined. It was like coming out of a fog. 

‘Dear me I’ he said in a self-congratulatory voice. 

Then abruptly he sat up, transfixed. The lower smoking- 
100m at the Senior Conservative Coub is on the street level, 
and Lord Ems\^orth’s chair faced the large window. Through 
this, as he raised his now spectacled face, he perceived for the 
first time that among the row of shops on the opposite side of 
the road was a jaunty new florist’s. It had not been there at Ins 



86 


Ijeave it to ¥ smith 


last visit to the metropolis, and he stared at it raptly, as a small 
boy would stare at a saucer of ice-ctcam if such a thing had sud- 
denly descended from heaven immediately in front of him. And, 
like a small boy in such a situation, he had eyes for nothing else. 
He did not look at his guest. Indeed, in the ecstasy of his 
discovery, he had completely forgotten that he had a guest. 

Any flower shop, however small, was a magnet to the Earl 
of Emsworth. And this was a particularly spacjous and arrest- 
ing dower shop. Its window was gay with summer blooms. 
And Lord Emsworth, slowh' rising from his chair, ‘pointed’ 
Uke a dog that sees a pheasant. 

‘Bless my sc>uil’ he murmured. 

If the reader has followed with the closeness which it de- 
serves the extremely entertaining c(snYersaiion of his lordship 
recorded in the last few paragraphs, he will have noted a refer- 
ence to hollyhocks. Loid Emsworth had ventilated the holly- 
hock question at some little length while seated at the lunch- 
eon table. But, as we had not the gofid fortune to be present 
at that enjoyable meal, a hnef mm/c of the situation must now 
be given and the intelligent public allowed to judge between 
his lordship and the uncompromising Ale Allis ter. 

Briefly, the position was this. Many head gardeners are apt 
to favour in the hollyhock forms that one cannot but think 
have for their aim an ideal tiiat is a false and unworthy'' one, 
Angus AIcAllistcr, clinging to the head-gardeneresque stan- 
dard of beauty and cf)rrect form, would not sanction the wide 
outer petal. The flower, so Angus held, must be v cry tight and 
very" round, like the uniform of a major-general. Lord Ems- 
worth, on the other hand, considered this view narrow, and 
claimed the liberty to try for the very highest and truest beauty 
in hollyhocks. The loosely-folded inner petals of the holly- 
hock, he considered, invited a wonderful play and brilliancy 
of colour; wliile the wide outer petal, with its slightly waved 
surface and genily frilled edge . , . well, anyway, Lord Ems- 
worth liked his hollyhocks floppy and Angus McAllister liked 
them tight, and bitter warfare had resulted, in u hich, as we 
have seen, his lordship had been compelled to give way. He 



Ij>r^ Emsmrth Meets a Poet 87 

hau been brooding on this defeat ever bince, and in the florist 
opposite he saw a possible sympathizer, a potential ally, an in- 
telligent chum with whom he could get together and thor- 
oughly damn Angus Me Allis tci’s Glaswegian obstinacy. 

You would not have suspected Loid i^msworth, from a 
casual glance, of having within him the ability to move rapidly ; 
but 11 is a fact that he was out or the smoking-room and skim- 
ming down the front steps of the club before Mr McT(>dd’s 
jaw, w^uch bad fallen at the spectacle of his host bounding out 
of his iiotizon of vision like a jack-iabbit, had lime to hitch it- 
self up again. A moment later, Mr McTodd, happening to 
diject hi>» gaze out of tlic window, ^aw him wdiiz acioss the 
toad and vanish into the florj^t's shop. 

It was at this lunctiuc that P'^niirh, having finished his lunch, 
came dow'psttirs to ciijO} a quiet cup of coffee. The 100m was 
rathci crowded, and the chair which Loid Rms worth had 
\acated oflered a wide invitat»c'n. made his way to it. 

Ms this chur occupied?’ he inquired pohtch. So politely 
that Ml Md'odd’s Kpl\ sounded by contiast e\en moic vio- 
lent than It might otherwise have ckmc. 

‘No, It I'^n’tl’ snapped Mr McTodd. 

Psmith seated himself. He was feeling agreeabl) disposed to 
convcisatioii. 

‘Lord Kmswoilh has kit )ou then?’ be said. 

‘ Is he a fia.rid of youis?’ mquiicd Mt McTodd in a voice 
Ibai suggested that he wao ped'cedy w illntg to accept a proxy 
as a taigct lot his wiath. 

M know'" liimby sight. Nothing moie.’ 

‘Blast himl’ mutreteJ Mr McTodd with inckscnLabie 
vuulencc. 

Psmith eyed him inquiringly. 

‘Corre ' me if I am wrong,’ h< said, ‘but I seem to detect in 
>our manner a certain half-veiled annc^^ance. Is anything the 
matter?’ 

Mr McTodd barked bitterly. 

‘Oh, no. Nothmg’s the matter. Nothing whatever, eveepr 
that that old beaver’ - here he wtonged Lord Ems worth, who. 



88 


Leave it to P smith 


whatever his faults, was not a bearded man - *that old beaver 
invited me to lunch, talked all the time about his infernal flow- 
ers, never let me get a word in edgeways, hadn’t the common 
civility to offer me a cigar, and now has gone 6fF without a 
word of apology, and buried himself in that shop over the 
way. IVe never been so insulted in my life ! ’ raved Jvlr McTodd. 

‘Scarcely the perfect host,’ admitted Psmith. 

‘And if he thinks,’ said Mr McTodd, rising, ‘that I’m going 
to go and stay with him at his beastly castle after this, he’s mis- 
taken. I’m supposed to go down there with him this evening. 
And perhaps the old fossil thinks I will! After this!’ A horrid 
laugh rolled up from Mr McTodd’s interior. ‘Likely! 1 see my- 
self! After being insulted like this . . . Wouldj^?//? ’ he demanded. 

Psmith gave the matter thought. 

‘I am inclined to think no.’ 

‘And so am I damned well inclined to think no!’ cried Mr 
McTodd. ‘ I’lngoingawaynow, this very minute. And if that old 
total loss ever comes back, you can tell him he’s seen the last of 
me.^ 

And Ralston McT )dJ, hi^ blood boiling with justifiable in- 
dignation and pique to a degree dangerous on such a warm day, 
stalked off row ards the door with a haul, set fare. Thit^ugh the 
doal he stalked to the clc>ak-room for his hai and cane ; then, his 
lips moving silently, he stalked through the hall, stalked down 
the steps, and passed from the scene, stalking furiously round 
the corner in que^t of a tobaconnist’s. At the moment of his dis • 
appearance, the E.arl of Emsworth’had j usi begun to give the sym- 
pathetic florist a limpid cl iraclci -sketch of Angus McAllister. 

t 

Psmith shook his head sadly .These clashings of human temper- 
ament were very lamentable. They disturbed the after-luncheon 
repose of the man ofscnsibility. fie ordered coffee, and endea- 
voured to forget the painful scene by thinking of Eve I ialliday. 

V 

The florist who had settled down to ply his trade ^ ppositc the 
Senior Conservative Club was a delightful fellow , thoroughly 



hard E^jsworfh Meets a Poet 89 

sound on the hollyhock question and so informative in the 
matter of delphiniums, achillcas, coreopsis, eryngiums, geums, 
lupins, bergamot, and early phloxes that Lord Emsworth gave 
himself up whole-heartedly to the fc^ast of reason and the flow 
of soul ; and it was only some fifteen minutes later that he re- 
membered that he had left a guest languishing in the lower 
smoldng-room and that this guest might be thinking him a trifle 
remiss in the observance of the sacred duties of hospitality. 

‘Biers my soul, yesP said his loidship, coming out from 
under the influence with a start. 

Even then he a »uld not bring himself to dash abruptly from 
the shop. Twice he reached the door and twice pothered back 
to sniff at flowers and sa} something he had forgotten to men- 
tion about the Sttt)nger Growing Clematis. Finally, howevci, 
V ith one last, longing, lingering look behind, he tore himself 
away and trotted back across the road. 

Arrived in the lower smoking-room, he stood m the door- 
way f< >r a moment, peering. The place had been a blur to him 
when he had left it, but he remcmbeied that he had been sit- 
ting in the middle window and, as there were only two seats 
by the window^ that tall, dark young man in one of them must 
ite the guest he had deserted. That he could be a changeling 
never occurred to Lord Emsworth. So pleasantly had the^ime 
passed in the shop across the w^ay that he had tiic impression 
that he had only been gone a c(»uple of minutes or svi. ] le made 
his wav to where the young man sat. A vague idea came into his 
head that the other had growm a bit in his absence, but it passed. 

‘Mv dear fellow,^ he said genially, as he slid into the other 
chair, ‘I really must apologize.’ 

It was plain lo Psmith that the other was under a misappre- 
hension, and a really nicc-minded young man would no doubt 
have put the matter right at ance. The fact that it never for a 
single instant occurred to Psmith to do so was due, no doubt, 
to some innate defect in his character. Jlc was essentially a 
young man w^ho took life as it came, and the more inconse- 
quently it came the better he liked it. Presently, he reflected, it 
would become necessary for him to make some excuse and 



Leave it to V smith 


steal quietly out of the other’s life ; but meanwhile the situa- 
tion seemed to him to present entertaining possibilities. 

*Not at all,’ he replied graciously. ‘Not at all.’ 

was afraid for a moment,’ said Lord Emsworth, ‘that 
you might - quite naturally - be offended/ 

‘Absurdl’ 

‘ Shouldn’t have left you like that. Shocking bad manners. 
But, my dear fellow, I simply had to pop across the street.’ 

‘Most decidedly,’ said Psmith. ‘Always pop across streets. 
It is the secret eff a happy and successful life.’ 

Lord Emsworth looked at him a little perplexedly, and 
wondered if he had caught the last remark correctly. Bt^t his 
mind had never been designed for the purpose of dwelling 
closely on problems for any length of time, and he let it go, 

‘Beautiful roses that man has,’ he observed. ‘Really an 
extraordinarily fine disjilay.’ 

‘Indeed?’ said Psmith. 

‘Nothing to touch mine, though. I wish, my dear fellow, 
you could have been down at Blandings at the beginning of 
the month. My roses vrere at their best then. It’s too bad you 
weren’t there to see them.’ 

‘^he fault no doubt was mine,’ said Psmith. 
course you weren’t in England then.’ 

*Ahl That explains it.’ 

‘Still, I shall have plenty of flowers to show you when you 
arc at Blandings. I expect,’ said Lord Emsworth, at last show- 
ing a host-like dispositir)n to give his guest a belated innings, 
‘ I expect you’ll write one of yemr p( )cms about my gardens, eh ? ’ 

Psmiih was conscious of a feeling of distinct gratification. 
Weeks of toil among the herrings of Billingsgate had left him 
with a sort of haunting fear that even in private life there 
clung to him the miasma of the fish market. Yet here was a 
perfectly unprejudiced observer looking squarely at him and 
mistaking him for a poet - showing that in spite of all he had 
gone through there must still be something notably spiritual 
and unfishy about his outward appearance. 

‘Very possibly,’ he said. ‘Very possibl}/.’ 



lj)rd 'Emsworth Meets a Poet 91 

'I suppose you get ideas for your poetry from all sorts of 
things/ said Lord limsworth, nobly resisting the temptation to 
collar the conversation again. He was feeling extremely friendly 
towards this poet fellow. It was deuced civil of him not to be 
put out and huffy at being left alone in the smoking-room. 

‘From practically everything/ said Psmith, ‘except fish,* 

‘Fish?* 

‘ 1 have never \viittcn a poem abiiut fish.’ 

‘No?* said Lord Emsworth, again fechng that a pin had 
worked loose in the machineiy of the conversatjon. 

‘1 wa^ once ollctcJ a pHncHy sum/ went on Psmith, now 
floating happily along on flic tide of his native exuberance, ‘to 
wnte a ballad for the i entitled, “Hcrbeit 

the Turbot.” But I was lirm. 1 deciinccl.* 

‘ Indet d ? * said L^ )r J Er isW('»rt h. 

‘ One has one’s sd^ respect/ said Psmith. 

‘Oh, dtcidt Jly/ ^aid Lord Emsworth. 

‘ It wavS painful, of c<»urse. The editoi broke dowm completely 
when he realized tliat my refusal was final. 1 low^cvci, 1 sent him 
f)n w'itb a letter of intrciduction to John Oiinkwater, who, I 
belic\ e, turned him out quite a good little effc'rt on the theme.* 

\\ this moment, when Lord Elmsworth was tceling a trifle 
di/z.y, and Psmith, on whom conversation always acted as a 
mental stimulus, w'as on the point of plunging even dce])er into 
the agieeable depths of light persiflage, a waiter appr(^.^chcd. 

‘A lady to see you, your h)rdship.’ 

‘Eh? Ah, yes, of course, of course. I w^-as expecting her. It 
is a Miss - what is the name? Holliday? Hallkla^. It is a Miss 
Halliday,* he said in explanation to Psmith, ‘ w^ho is coming 
down to Blandings to catalogue the libiaiy. My secretary, 
Baxter, told her to call liere and sec me. If you will excuse me 
for a moment, my dear fellow?* 

‘Certainly.* 

As Lord Emsworth disappeared, it occurred U) Psmith that 
the moment had arrived for him to get his hat and steal softly 
out of the other’s life for ever. Only so could confusion and 
embarrassing explanations be avoided. And it was Psmith ’s 



Leave // to Psmith 


9z 

guiding rule in life always to avoid explanations. It might, he 
felt, cause Lord Emsworth a momentary pang when he re- 
turned to the smoking-room and found th’aTTic was a poet 
short, but what is that in these modern days when poets are so 
plentiful that it is almost impossible to fling a brick in any 
public place without damaging some stern young singer. 
Psmith’s view of the matter was that, if Lord Emsworth was 
bent on associating with poets, there was bound to be another 
one along in a minute. He was on the point, therefore, of rising, 
when the laziness induced by a good lunch decided him to re- 
main in his comfortable chair for a few minutes longer. He was in 
one of those moods of rare tranquillity which it is rash to break. 

He lit another cigarette, and his thoughts, as they had done 
after the departure of Mr McTodd, turned dreamily in the 
direction of the girl he had met at Miss Clarkson’s Employ- 
ment Bureau. He mused upon her with a gentle melancholy. 
Sad, he felt, that two obviously kindred spirits like himself and 
her should meet in the whirl of Lond(^n life, only to separate 
again - presumably for ever - simply because the etiquette 
governing those who are created male and female forbids a man 
to cement a chance acquaintanceship by ascertaining the lady’s 
name and address, asking her to lunch, and swearing eternal 
friendship. He sighed as he gazed thoughtfully out of the lower 
smoking-room window. As he had indicated in his conversa- 
tion with Mr Walderwick, those blue eyes and that cheerful, 
friendly face had made a deep impression on him. Who was 
she? W'hcre did she live? And wsls he ever to see her again? 

He was. Even as he asked himself the question, two figures 
came down the steps of the club, and paused. One was Lord 
Emsworth, without his hat. The other - and Psmith’s usually 
orderly heart gave a spasmodic bound at the sight of her - was 
the very girl who was occupying his thoughts. There she 
stood, as blue-eyed, as fair-haired, as indescribably jolly and 
charming as ever, 

Psmith rose from his chair with a vehemence almost equal 
to that recently displayed by Mr McTodd. It was Ids intention 
to add himself immediately to the group. He raced across the 



Ijord Emswortb Meets a Poet 


95 


too*n in a manner that di cw censorious glances from the local 
greybeards, many of whom had half a mind to \yritc to the 
committee about it. 

But when he reached the open ait the pavement at the foot 
of the club steps was empt^ . The girl was just \ amshing lound 
the corner into the btrand, and of Lord Lmsworth there uas 
no sign whatever. 

By this time, however, Psmith had acquit ed a useful wot v- 
ing knowledge of his lordship's habits, and he knew where to 
look. He ciobsed the street and he ided for the flf)rist’b shop 
‘ A-b,mv dearfellow,’saidhis lordship amiably, suspendinghis 
convt rsation with the pro]>rictor on the subject of delphimum , 
‘must you be od ^ Don’t forget that our tiain leaves Padding- 
ton at hve shatp You take vout ticket tor Market Blanding ’ 
Psmith had come into th shop merely with the intention 
of asking his lord^'kip if he happened to know Miss Halllda^ ’s 
address, but the^c wcids opened out uch a vista of attracts e 
possibilities tint he had abandoned this tame piogramme im- 
mediately. He remembered now that among Mi McTodd’s 
remarks on things in general had been one to the eftect that he 
had leceivt d an invitation to \ isit Blandings Castle - of which 
invitation he did not propose to avail himself ; and he argued 
that if he had acted as substitute for Mi McTodd at the club, 
he might well continue the kindly work by othciating for him 
at Blandino*s. Looking at the matter altruistically, he w )uJd 
prevent his kind host much disaj>p( jntmeni by taking this 
course , and, 1( coking at it ft om a more personal viewpoint, onlv 
by going to Blandings coukl he renew ms acquamtance witii 
this girl. Psmith had never been one )f tho^e who hang back 
diffidently when Adventure calls, and he did not hang back now. 
‘At five sharp,’ he said. ‘I will be there.’ 

‘Capital, my dear fellow,’ said his lordship. 

‘Does Miss liallidiy travel with us^* 

‘Eh^ No, she is coming down in a day or two.* 

‘1 shall look forward to meeting her,’ said Psmith. 

He turned to the door, and Lord Emsworth with a farewell 
beam resumed his convcr^^ation with the florist. 



CHAPTER 7 


Baxter Suspects 


T he five o'clock train, bavin given itself a spasmodic 
jerk, began to move slowly out of Paddington Station. 
The platform past which it was gliding was crowded with a 
number of the fauna always to be seen at railwa} stations ai 
such moments, but in their ranks there was no sign of Mr 
Ralston AfcTodd; and Psmith, as he sat opposite Lord Ems- 
worth in a c<.)nicr seat of a first-class compartment, felt that 
genial glow of satisfaction wliich comes to the man who has 
successfully taken a chance. Until now, he had been half afraid 
that IMcTodd, ha''fing changed his mind, might suddenly ap- 
pear with bag and baggage - an event which must necessarily 
liavc caused confa^’ion and discomfort. Ills mind was now 
tranquil. Concerning the future he declined to worry. It would, 
no doubt, contain its little difficulties, but he was prepared to 
meet them in the right spirit; and his only trouble in the world 
now was the difficulty he was experiencing in avoiding his 
lordship’s legs, which showed a disposition to pervade the 
compartment like the tentacles an octopus. Lord Emsworth 
rather ran to leg, and his practice of reclining when at ease 
on the base of his spine was causing him to straddle, like 
Apollyon in Vtl grim's Progress, * right acriiss the way ’ It be 
came manifest that in a journey lasting several hours his society 
was likely to prove irksome. Ik>r the time being, hov/ever, he 
endured it, and listened with polite attention to his host’s re- 
marks on the subject of the Blandings gardens. Lord Ems- 
worth, in a train moving in the direction of home, was behav- 
ing like a horse heading for his stable, fie snorted eagerly, and 
spoke at length and with emotion of roses auf* herbaceous 
borders. 


04 



Baxter Suspects 95 

"It will be dark, I suppose, by the tiixie we arrive,’ he said 
reejrctfully, ‘but the firsi thing to-morrow, my dcat fellow, I 
must take you round and show 3’^ou my gardens/ 

‘I ‘’hall look forwod 10 it kccnl}^' '•aid P'^mith, ‘They are, 
I cm readily imao-me, distinctly oojah-cum spid/ 

‘1 beg \our paidori''’ said Lord T riswoith, a st'^rt. 

‘ Not at all/ S'! id Poniith i^racioi h . 

‘hr - yhat aid -vou isk( d his 1 jrd hip ah^t a slight 

piusc. 

‘ 1 was s 13 ing that, ftom ill icpoits, ou mu^t h.i\c a \ery 
nitty disphv 01 t^rden ptoducc at ’^ou-'' rmal cat ’ 

‘Oh, On, mist,’ said his lora‘'btp, loui: mg puz'kd. lie 
examined P nith ac^’oss the ccmip* 1 tnicnt wjtl ^ )»n tn nr ot 
l*^c pc^nn<' t no 1 \ vhid ht woukl vl L stowed upo 1 a 
new and uncli>siiiLd sh^u^ ‘Most aoj.diii?n ’ tic rnur- 
muKd, ‘I tiust, ni) d< tcilovv, ^ou will not thii k me oer- 
son il, but, do ’s )u kn iw, iobod\ woi Id iniamm ir \ouwere 
i p )cr. You don t look 111 c a poet, ^3’*d, dash 30U rlon’l talk 
like a poet ’ 

‘Jlow should a p xt talk 

‘Well . . ’ J oul I nrisw nth considcttd the p unt. "Wtll, 
AIiss Jka»<.\ . . . bi^ of c luise >ou don’t know \i3ss Pcavey 
. . Miss PLa\cA IS a poetess, and she wa>iiid me the other 
morning while I was haMnv a iPo>t impoitant conlti^nce with 
Me Ml sict on the e]i)<.ct <^t bulbs and a ked it I d eln’t 
tnirl that it wis Fuiie''’ ♦'ear di( ps that made the dew . Did }ou 
e\(.i hell ^ueh dabbed nonsense 

I Icnth an agLna\ it< d ca Ts iMiss Peavey st i\ing at the 
castle-"’ 

‘Aly dill fellow, \ou couldn’t shitt her with blasting- 
powder. Really this cta^e ot my sister C onstame ^'or filling the 
house with these mlernai hterarv people is gettmg on my 
ner\cs. I can't stand these poets and wlnt n )t. Nc'^ei could ’ 

‘ We must alwav 1 emember, howevci / said Psrmth gia\ 1 1 v, 
‘that poets are also God’s creatures.’ 

‘ Good hca\ ens t ’ exclaimed liis lordship, ap-bast. ‘1 had for- 
gotten that you wcie one. What will you think of me, my dear 



Leave it to 1? smith 


96 

fellow I But, of course, as I said a moment ago, you are differ- 
ent. 1 admit that when Constance told me that she had invited 
you to the house 1 was not cheered, but, now that I have had 
the pleasure of meeting you . . / 

The conversation had worked round to the very point to 
which Psmith had been wishing to direct it. He was keenly 
desirous of finding out why Mr McTodd had been invited to 
Blandings and - a stiiJ more vital matter - of ascertaining 
whether, on hiS arrival there as Mr McTodd's understudy, he 
was going to meet people who knew’ the poet by sight On 
this latter point, k seemed to him, hung the question of 
w’hether he w^as about tr) enjoy a delightful visit to a historic 
countr}'' house in the society of Hve Halhday - or leave the 
train at the next stop and omit tt) return to k. 

‘It wus extremely kind of 1 .ady Constance/ he hazarded, ‘to 
invite a perfect stranger to Blandings/ 

*Oh, she's alw’ays doing that sort of tiling,^ said his lord- 
ship. ‘It didn’t matter to her that she’d never seen you in her 
life. She had rcau your books, )ou know, and liked them ; and 
w^hen she hcaid that \ ou w’crc coming to England, she wnote 
to you/ 

‘I see/ said Psmith, relieved. 

‘Of course, it is all right as it has turned (mt/ said Lord 
Emsworth handsomely. ‘As I say, you're different. And liow" 
you came to write that • , . that . . / 

‘Bilge?' suggested Psmitb, 

‘The very word I was about to employ, my dear fellow . . . 
No, no, T don’t mean that . , , 1 - 1 , . . Capital stuff, no doubt, 
capital stuff . . . but . * 

‘I understand.' 

‘Constance tried to make me read the things, but I couldn’t, 
1 fell asleep over them.’ 

‘I hope you rested well.’ 

‘1 - er - the fact is, 1 suppose they were beyond me. I 
couldn’t see an) rense in the things.' 

‘If you would care to have another pop them/ said 
Psmith agreeably, ‘1 have a complete set in my bag,' ' 



Baxter Suspects 97 

* No, no, my dear fellow, thank ou \ ery much, thank you 
a thousand times, 1 - er - find that reading in the tram tiies m) 
c>es.’ 

* Ah^ You would prefci that I lead them aloud 

‘No, no/ A look of hunted alaim came into his lord>hip 
speaking countenance at the siigjrestion. ‘As a mattet ot lact 
I generally take a shott nap at the beginning of a tailua\ 
jouincy 1 find it it^^rcshmg and - cr - in slioir, reiteslung. You 
willexc seine^’ 

‘If you think }ou can get to sleep all right without the aid 
of m\ p(jems, ccitjinly ' 

‘ ou won’t thin] merade-'’ 

‘Not at all, not ?t aU the wav, am I liktl) to meet ai 
old friends at Bland mgs 

‘hh^ Oh no. Tlure will be nobr>d\ but ouiselvcs I \cep( 
m\ sistci and Mi s Pea\t\, of eout c ^ ou said \ou had nen 
met Miss Peavc^, 1 think 

‘ I liave not had that pleasaie I am, ol course, looking toi 
w ird to It with the utmost keenre ’ 

I ord J msworth cved him lot a moment, astonished: then 
concluded the convei^aticm In closing his e\cs dctensiveh 
Psniith was lett to his u flections which a hw n«mules Ltei 
v\eiL imeinipted by a smart kick on the shin, as Loid bn**' 
woith, a )ump} sleeper, began to throw his long legs about 
Psmith moved to the othei end of iht scat and, taking his bag 
dow n tiom the lack, extracted 1 shm \ olume bound in sejuashv 
mauve. After gi/mg at this in an unftiejidl} nnnnei to a 
moment, he opened A at lardom and I>c gan to lead 1 lis fust 
iiKn e on leiving I ord 1 msworth at the flori ♦•’s had been to 
spend a poition (;f his blender capital on th wot ks of Rahton 
Me Todd m cueler not to be taken at a disadvantage in the 
event ot <jUCstions about them at Blinding'- but he speedih 
icah/ed, as he dipped into the poems, tint mvthing in the 
nitjiL. ot a prolonged study of them w^as likely to spoil hi'' 
little holiday The} were not light summer reading 


^Across the pah patabola lJ Joy 



98 


L^ave it to ^ smith 


A gurgling snort from the other end of the compartment 
abruptly detached his mind from its struggle with this mystic 
line. He perceived that his host had slipped even further down 
on to his spine and was now lying with open mouth in an atti- 
tude suggestive of dislocation. And as he looked, there was a 
whistling sound, and another snore proceeded from the back 
of his lordship’s throat. 

Psmitb rose and took his book of poems out into the cor- 
ridor with the purpose of roaming along the train until he 
should find an empty compartment in which to read in 
peace. 

With the two adjoining compartments he had no luck. One 
was occupied by an elderly man with a retriever, while the 
presence of a baby in the other ruled it out of ct)nsiQeration. 
The third, however, looked more promising. It was not actu- 
ally empty, but there was only one occupant, and he was asleep. 
He was lying back in the far corner with a large silk handker- 
chief draped over his face and his feet propped up on the seat 
opposite. His scKiety did not seem likely to act as a bar to the 
study of Mr McTcxid’s masterpieces. Psmith sat down and re- 
sumed his reading* 

Across the pale parabola of joy . • • 

Psmith knitted his brow. It was just the sort of line which 
was likely to have puzzled his patroness. Lady Constance, and 
he anticipated that she would come to him diiectly he arrived 
and ask for an explanation. It Avould obvicvjsly be a poor start 
for nis visit to confess that he had no thc(^ry as to us mean’ ig 
liimself. He tried it again. 

cross the pale parabola of Joy . , . 

A sound like two or three pigs feeding rather noisily in the 
middle of a thunderstorm interrupted his meditations. Psmith 
laid his book down and ga^ed in a pained wa^ cross the com- 
partment, There came to him a sense of being unfairly put 



Baxter Suspects 99 

i*pon, as towards the end of his troubles it might have come 
upon Job. This, he felt, was too much. He was being harried. 
The man m the corner went on snoring. 


There is always a wa} . Almost immediately Psmith saw what 
Napoleon would have done m this crisis. On the seat beside 
the sJeepci was lying a compact little suit-case with hard, sharp 
edges. Rising sottly, Psmith edged along the compartment and 
secured this. Then, having balanced it carefully on the rack 
above tlu sleeper’s itonueh, he returned to his scat to await 
dc\ek>pmcnts. 

These \ieic not long in coming. The tram, now flymg at its 
best speed through open countiy, was shakmg itself at inter- 
val^ m a vigoious way as it raced along. A few sec\>nds later 
It appal cntly passed over some pomts, and shivered briskly 
down Its whole length. The suit case wobbled insecurely, hesi- 
lattd, and tell ehunkiU in tiic e^act middle of its ownei’s waist- 
coat. There was a srarjlhcred gulp beneath the handkf*tchief. 
The sleeper sat up with a jerk. The handkerctuef tell off. And 
tluLC uas rc\eaicd to Psmirh's interested gaze the face of the 
Hon. Fic Jdie Threepwotid. 


II 

* Goo ! ’ observed Freddie. He icmoved the bag from his mid- 
riff and began to massage the sti irl en spot. Then suddenl\ per- 
tciving that he was not alone he lorikcd up and saw Psnuth. 
'trxooF said Freddie, and sat staling wildl}. 

Nobody is more alive than we are to the fact that the dia- 
logue of Frcdeiiek Threepwood, recorded above, is not bright. 
Nl\ eitheless, those were his opening lemarks, and the excuse 
must bt diat he had passed thi ough a tiy mg time and had just 
icccived two shocks, one aftei the other. From the first of 
these, the physical impact of the suit case, he was rccovermg ; 
but the second had simply paialysed him. When, the mists of 
sleep havmg cleared away, he saw sitting but a few feet away 
fjom h.m on the tram that was carrying mm home the very 



lOO 


Leave it to Psmiih 


man with whom he had plotted in the lobby of the Piccadilly* 
Palace Hotel, a cold fear gripped Freddie’s very vitals, 

Freddie’s troubles had begun when he just missed the 
twelve-fifty train. This disaster had perturbed him greatly, for 
he could not forget his father’s stern injunctions on the sub- 
ject. But what had really upset him was the fact that he had 
come within an ace of missing the five o’clock train as well. 
He had spent the afternoon in a motion-picture palace, and the 
iascination of the film had caused him to lose all sense of time, 
so that only the slow fade-out on the embrace and the words 
* The End’ reminded him to look at his watch. A mad rush had 
got him to Paddington just as the five o’clock express was leav- 
ing the station. Exhausted, he had fallen into a troubled sleep, 
from which he had been aroused by a violent blow in the waist- 
coat and the nightmare vision of Psmith in the scat across the 
compartment. One cant\ot wonder in these circumstances that 
Freddie did not immediately soar to the heights of eloquence. 

The picture which the Hon. Frederick Threepwood had 
selected for his patronage that afternoon was the well-known 
super-super-film, ‘Fangs Of The Past,’ featuring Bcttha Ble- 
vitch and Maurice Heddlestone - which, as everybody knows, 
is all about blackmail. Grcen-wallcd by primeval hills, bathed 
in the golden sunshine of peace and happiness, the village ()f 
Honeydean slumbered in the clear morning air. But off the 
train from the city stepped A Stranger - (The Stranger - Max- 
well Bannister), fie inquired of a passing rustic - (The Passing 
Rustic - Claude Hepworth) - the way to the great house where 
Myrtle Dale, the Lady B( antiful of the village . . . well, any- 
way, it is all about blackmail, and it had affected Freddie pro- 
foundly. It still coloured his imagination, and the conclusion 
to which he came the moment he saw Psmith was that the 
latter had shadowed him and was following him home with 
the purpose of extracting hush-money. 

While he was still gurgling wordlessly, Psmith opened the 
conversation. 

‘A delightful and unexpected pleasure, comraa I thought 
you had left the Metropolis some hours since.’ 



Baxter Suspects i o i 

Freddie sat looking like a cornered dormouse a voice 
from the corridor spoke. 

‘Ah, there you are, my dear fell owl' 

Lord Ems worth was beaming in the doorway. His slumbers, 
like those of Freddie, had not lasted long. He had been 
aroused only a few minutes after Psmith’s departure by tlic 
arrival of the retriever from the next compartment, which, 
looted by the society of its owner, had strolled off on a tour 
of investigation and, finding next door an old acquaintance in 
the person of his lordship, had jumped on the seat and licked 
liis face with such hearty good will that further sleep was our 
of the question. Being awake. Lord limsworth, as always when 
he was awake, had begun to potter. 

When he saw Ficddie his amiability suffered a shock. 

‘ Frederick ! I thought I told you to be sure to return on the 
twelve-fifty Train ! ’ 

‘Missed it, guv’nor,’ mumbled Freddie thickly. ‘Not my 
fault; 

‘irmph!' His father seemed about to pursue the subject, 
but the fact that a stranger and one who was his guest was 
present apparently decided him to avoid anything in the shape 
of family wrangles. He peered from Freddie to Psmith and 
back again. ‘Do you two know each other?’ he said. 

‘Not yet,’ said Psmith. ‘We only met a moment ago.’ 

‘My son Frcdericl^,’ said Lord Emsworth, rather in the 
voice with which he would have called attention to the 
presence of a slug among his flowers. ‘Frederick, tliis 
is Mr McTodd, the poet, who Is coming to stay at 
Blandings.’ 

Freddie started, and his mouth opered. But, meeting 
Psmith’s friendly gaze, he closed the orifice again without 
speaking. He licked his hps in an overwrought way. 

‘ You'll find me next door, if you want me/ said Lord Ems- 
worth to Psmith, ‘Just discovered that George Willard, very 
old friend of mine, is in there. Never saw him get on the tram. 
His dog came into my compartment and licked my face. One 
of niy neighbours. A remarkable rose-grower. As you arc so 



102 


Leave it to P smith 


interested in flowers, I will take you over to his place some 
time. Why don’t you join us now?’ 

‘I would prefer, if you do not mind,’ said Psmith, ‘to re- 
main here for the moment and foster what I feel sure is about 
to develop into a great and lasting friendship. I am convinced 
that your son and I will have much to talk about together.’ 

‘ Very well, my dear fellow. We will meet at dinner in the 
restaurant-car.’ 

Lord Emsworth pottered off, and Psmith rose and closed 
the door. He returned to his seat to find Freddie regarding 
him with a tortured expression in his rather prominent eyes. 
Freddie’s brain had had more exercise in the last few minutes 
than in years of his normal life, and he was feeling the strain. 

‘I say, what?’ he observed feebly. 

‘If there is anything,’ said Psmith kindly, ‘that I can do to 
clear up any httlc difficulty that is perplexing you, call on me. 
What is biting you?’ 

Freddie swallowed convulsively. 

‘I say, he said your name was McTodd!’ 

‘ Precisely.’ 

‘But you said it was Psmith.’ 

‘It is.’ 

‘Then why did father call you McTodd?’ 

‘He thinks I am. It is a harmless error, and I see no reason 
why it should be discouraged.’ 

‘But why does he think you’re McTodd?’ 

‘It is a long story*, which you may find tedious. But, if you 
really wish to hear it ’ 

Nothing could have exceeded the raptness of Freddie’s at- 
tention as he listened to the tale of the encounter with Lord 
Emsworth at the Senior Conservative Club. 

‘Do you mean to say,’ he demanded at its conclusion, ‘that 
you’re coming to B landings pretending to be this poet 
blighter?’ 

‘ Tliat is the scheme.’ 

‘But why?’ 

‘I have my reasons. Comrade - what is the name? Threep- 



Baxter Suspects 105 

wood? I thank you. You will pardon me. Comrade Thrcep- 
wood, if I do not go into them. And now/ said Psmith, ‘to 
resume our very interesting chat which was unfortunately cut 
short this morning, why do you want me to steal your aunt’s 
necklace?’ 

Freddie jumped. For the moment, so tensely had the fact of 
his companion’s audacity chained his interest, he had actually 
forgotten about the necklace. 

‘Gr^at Scott!’ he exclaimed. ‘Why, of course 

‘ Yt>u still have not made it quite clear.’ 

‘It fits splcndidl}/ 

‘ The necklace?’ 

‘I mean to say, the great difficulty wr^uld have been to find 
a way of getting you into the house, and here you are, coming 
there as this })uct bird. Topping!’ 

‘If/ said Psmith, regarding him patiently thjough his eye- 
glass, ‘1 do not seem to be tmm;dialcly infected by yout 
joyous enthusiasm, put it down to the fact that I haven’t the 
remotest idea what you’re talking about. Could you give me 
a pointer or tw^o? W’hat, for instance, assuming that 1 agreed 
to steal y'our aunt’s necklace, would you expect me to do with 
It, wlicn and if stoh'n?’ 

‘^X'hy, hand it over to me.’ 

‘ 1 see. And what would you do with it r ' 

‘Hand at over to my uncle.’ 

‘And whom would he hand it over to?’ 

‘Look here/ said Freddie, ‘1 might as well start at the 
beginning.’ 

‘An excellent idea.’ 

The speed at which the train was now proceeding had begun 
to render conversation in anything but stcntoiian times some- 
what ditlicult. Freddie accordingly bent fiirward till his mouth 
almost touched Psmith’s ear. 

‘"^’ou see, it’s like this. Mv uncle, old Joe Kc:ble . . 

‘Kccble?’ said Psmith. ‘’Why/ he murmured meditatively, 
*is that name familiar?’ 

‘Don’t interrupt, old kid/ pleaded Freddie. 



104 


Leave it to P smith 


*I stand corrected/ 

‘Uncle Joe has a stepdaughter - Phyllis her name is - and 
some time ago she popped off and married a cove called 
Jackson . . / 

Psmith Hid not interrupt the narrative again, but as it pro- 
ceeded his look of interest deepened. And at the conclusion 
he patted fiis companion encouragingly on the shoulder. 

‘The proceeds, then, of this jewel-robbery, if it comes off,' 
he said, ‘will go to establish the Jackson home on a firm foot- 
ing? Am I right in thinking that?’ 

‘ Absolutely/ 

‘ There is no danger - 3^ou will pardon the suggestion - of 
you clinging like glue to the sw'ag and using it to maintain 
yourself in the position to which you are accustomed?’ 

/Absolutely not. Uncle Joe is giving me - er ~ giving me a 
bit for myself. Just a small bit, )'ou understand. This is the 
scheme. You sneak the necklace and hand it over to me. I push 
the necklace over to Uncle Joe, who hides it somewhere for 
the moment. There is the dickens of a fuss, and Uncle Joe 
comes out strong by telling Aunt Constance that he’ll buy her 
another necklace, just as good. Then he takes the stones out 
of the necklace, has them reset, and gives them to Aunt Con- 
stance. Looks like a new necklace, if you see what I mean. 
Then he draws a cheque for twenty thousand quid, which 
Aunt Constance naturally thinks is for the new necklace, and 
he shoves the money somewhere as a little private account. 
He gives Phyllis her money, and everybody’s happy. Aunt 
Constance has got her necklace, Phyllis has got her monej, 
and ail that’s happened is that Aunt Constance’s and Uncle 
Joe’s combined bank balance has had a bit of a hole knocked 
in it. See?’ 

‘I vsec. It is a little difficult to follow all the necklaces. I 
seemed to count about seventeen of them while you were talk- 
ing, but I suppose I was wrong. Yes, I see, Ct^nrade Threep- 
wood, and I may say at once that you can xely on my co- 
operation.’ 

‘You’ll do it?* 



Baxter Suspects 


105 


will.’ 

*Of course/ said Freddie awkwardly, ‘Fll sec that you get 
a bit all right. I mean . . . ’ 

Psmith waved his hand deprecating] y. 

‘ My dear Comrade Thrcepwood, let us not become sordid 
on this glad occasion. As far as I am concerned, there will ] 3 C 
no charge.’ 

‘What! But look here . . 

‘Any assistance I can give will be offered in a purely amateur 
spirit. I would have mentioned before, only I was reluctant to 
interrupt you, that Comrade Jackson is my boyhood chum, 
arid that Phyllis, his wife, injects into my life the few beams of 
sunshine that illumine its dreary round. I have long desired tr> 
do something to ameliorate their lot, and now that the chance 
has come I am delighted. It is true that I am not a man of 
affluence ~ my bank- manager, I am told, winces in a rather 
painful mann'^ r whenever m} namc' is mentioned - but I am 
not so reduced that I must charge a fee for performing, on 
behalf of a pal, a simple act of courtesy like pinching a tw’enty 
thousand pound necklace.’ 

‘Good JA3rd! Fancy that!’ 

‘Fancy what, Comrade Thrcepwood?’ 

‘Fancy your knowing Ph}llis and her husband.’ 

‘It is odd, no doubt. But true. Many a whack at the cold 
beef have 1 had on Sunday evenings under their roof, and I 
am much obliged to you for putting in my way this oppoi- 
tunity of jcpaying their hospitality. Thank you!" 

‘Oh, that’s all right,’ said Freddie, somewhat bewildered by 
this eloquence, 

‘Even if the little enterprise meets with disaster, the reflec- 
tion that I did my best for the young couple will be a great 
consolation to me when I am serving my bit of time in Worm- 
wood Scrubbs. It will cheer me up. The jailers will cluster out - 
side the door to listen to me singing in my cell. My pet rat, as 
he creeps out to share the crumbs of my breakfast, will wonder 
why I whistle as I pick the morning’s oakum. I shall join in the 
hymns on Sundays in a way that will electrify the chaplain. 



Ijeave it to F smith 


io6 

That is to say, if anything goes wrong and I am what I believe 
is technically termed “copped.” 1 say “if”/ said Psmith, gaz- 
ing solemnly at his companion, ‘But I do not intend to be 
copped. I have never gone in largely for crime hitherto, but 
something tells me I shall be rather good at it. I look forward 
conlidently to making a nice, clean job of the thing. And now. 
Comrade Threepwood, 1 must ask \ou to excuse me while I 
get the half-nelson on this rather poisijuous poetiy of good 
old McTodd’s. From the cursory glance I have taken at it, the 
stuff doesn't seem to mean anything. 1 think the boy’s non 
compos. You don’t happen to understand tlie cxpi cssion “ Across 
the pale parabola of Joy,” do you? ... 1 feared as much. Weil, 
pijr-pip for the present. Comrade Threepwood. 1 shall now 
ask you to retire into y('>ur corner and amuse yourself for 
a while as you best can. I must concentrate, concentrate.’ 

And Psmith, having put his feet up on the opposite scat and 
reopened the mauve volume, began to lead. Freddie, his mind 
still in a whirl, looked <mt of the window at the pasdng scen- 
ery in a mocxl which was a nice blend of claticm and appre- 
hension. 


Ill 

Although the hands of the station clock jointed to several 
minutes past nine, it was still apparently early evening when 
the train drev/ up at the platform of Market Blandings and dis- 
charged its distinguished passengers. The sun, taken in as 
usual by the never -failing practical joke of the Daylight iSaving 
Act, had only just set, and a gvilden afterglt^w lingeicd on the 
holds as the car which had met the tram purred ov ji the t\vo 
miles of country road that separated the little town from the 
castle. As they passed in between the gicat stone gate-posts and 
shot up the winding drive, the soft murmur of the engines 
seemed tc> deepen rather than break the soothing stillncSvS. The 
air was fragrant with indescribable English scents. Somewhere 
in the distance shccp-bells tinkled; rabbits, waggling white 
tails, bolted across the path ; and once a herd ' agitated deer 
made a brief appearance among the tiees. The only thing that 



BaxUr Suspects 1 07 

ai.'-turbed the magk hush was the fluting voice of Lord Ems- 
worth, on whom the spectacle of his beloved property had 
acted as an immediate stimulant. Unlike his son Freddie, who 
sat silent in his corner wrestling with his hopes and fears. Lord 
Einsworth had plunged into a perfect Niagara of speech the 
moment the car entered the park. In a high tenor voice, and 
with wide, excited gestures, he pointed out to Psmith oaks 
with a liistory and rhododendrons with a past : his conversa- 
tion they drew near the castle and came in sight of the 
dower-beds taking on an almost lyncal note and becoming a 
sort of anthem of gladness, through which, like some theme 
ill the minor, ran a ..erics of opptobricjus observations on the 
subject (^f y\ngus McAllister. 

Beach, the butler, solicitously scooping them out of the car 
at the front door, announced that her ladyship and Miss Pea- 
vey were taking their after-dinner coffee in the arbour by the 
bowling-green ; and presently Psmuh, conducted by his lord- 
ship, found himself shaking hands with a strikingly handsome 
W( )man in whom, though her manner was friendbness iiself, he 
could detect a marked suggestion of the formidable. Aestheii- 
cally, he admired Lady Constance's appearance, but he could 
not ctmeeal frr)m himself that in the peculiar citcamstances he 
would have preferred sometlung rather more fragile and drc;< >p- 
ing. Lady Constance conveyed the impression that anybody 
who had the choice between stealing anything from her and 
stirring up a nest of liorncts with a short walking-stick would 
do well to choose the hornets. 

' How do you do, Mr Mcl^xld?' s.tid l,ady Constance with 
great amiability. ‘ I am so glad you were able to come after 
all.’ 

Psmith wondered what she meant by ‘after all,' but there 
were su many things about his present situati<^n calculated to 
tax the mind that he had no desire to probe slight verbal am- 
biguities. He shook her band and replied that it was very kind 
of her to say so. 

‘ We are quite a small party at present,’ continued Lady Con- 
stance, ‘ but we are expecting a number of people quite soom 



Leave it to smith 


io8 

For the moment Aileen and you are our ojdy guests. Oh, I am 
sorry, I should have . . . Miss Peavey, Mr McTodd.’ 

The slim and willowy female who during this brief conver- 
sation had been waiting in an attitude of suspended animation, 
gazing at Psmith with large, wistful eyes, stepped forward. 
She clasped Psmith’s hand in hers, held it, and in a low, soft 
voice, like thick cream made audible, uttered one reverent 
word, 

*‘MaUrel * 

‘I beg your pardon?’ said Psmith. A young man capable of 
bearing himself w’ith calm and dignity in most circumstances, 
however trying, he found his poise wobbling under the impact 
of Miss Ailcen Peavey. 

Miss Peavey often had this effect on the less soulful type of 
man, especially in the mornings, when such men are not at 
their strongest and best. When she came into the breakfast- 
room of a country house, brave men who had been up a bit 
late the night before quailed and tried to hide behind news- 
papers. She was the sort of woman who tells a man who is 
propping his eyes open wdth his fingers and endeavouring to 
correct a headache with strong tea, that she was up at six 
watching the dew fade off the grass, and didn’t he think that 
those wisps of morning mist were the elves' bridal- veils. She 
had large, fine, melancholy eyes, and w^as apt to droop 
dreamily, 

‘Master!’ said Miss Peavey, obligingly translating. 

There did not seem to be any immediate come-back to a re- 
mark like this, so Psmith contented himself with beaming 
genially at her through his monocle: and Miss Pea\ey came 
to bat again. 

‘ How wonderful that you were able to come - after allT 

Again this ‘after air motive creeping into the theme. . . . 

‘You know Miss Peavey’s work, of course?’ said Lady 
Constance, smiling pleasantly on her two celebrities. 

‘Who does not?’ said Psmith courteously. 

‘Oh, do you?’ said Miss Peavey, gratificatio n causing her 
slender body to perform a sort of ladylike shimmy down its 



Baxter Suspects 1 09 

whole length. sowrcely hoped that you would know my 
name. My Canadian sales have not been large.’ 

‘Quite large enough/ said Psmith. ‘I mean, of course/ he 
added with a paternal smile, ‘that while your delicate art may 
not have a universal appeal in a young country, it is intensely 
appreciated^ by a small and select body of the intelligentsia.’ 

And if that was not the stuff to give them, he reflected with 
not a little complacency, he was dashed. ' 

‘Your own wonderful poems,’ replirf Miss Pcavey, ‘arc, 
of course, known the whole world over. Oh, Mr McTodd, 
you can hardly appreciate how 1 feel, meeting you. It is 
like the reali 2 ation of some golden dream of childhood. It 
is like . . . ’ 

Here the Hon. Freddie Threepwood remarked suddenly that 
he was going to pop into the house for a whisky and soda. 
As he had not previously spoken, his observation had some- 
thing of the eFect of a voice from th tomb. The daylight was 
ebbing fast now, and in the shado'ws he had contrived to pass 
out of sight as well as out of mind. Aliss Peavey started like an 
abruptly awakened somnambulist, and Psmith was at last able 
to release his hand, which he had begun to look on as gone 
beyond his control for ever. Until this fortunate interruption 
there had seemed no reason why Miss Peavey should not have 
continued to hold it till bedtime. 

Freddie’s departure had the effect of breaking a spell. Lord 
Emsworth, who had been standing perfectly still with vacant 
eyes, like a dog listening to a noise a long way off, came to 
life with a jerk. 

‘I’m going to have a look at my flowers,’ he announced. 

‘Don’t be silly, Clarence/ said his sister. ‘It’s much too dark 
to sec flowers.’ 

‘I couid smell ’em,’ retorted his lordship argumentatively. 

It seemed as if the party must break up, for already his lord- 
ship had begun to potter off, when a new-comer arrived to 
solidify it again. 

‘Ah, Baxter, my dear fellow,’ said Lord Emsworth. ‘Here 
we are, you see.’ 



no Leave it tQ Psm^h „ 

‘Mr Baxter/ said Lady Constance, ‘I ^nt you to meet Mr 
McTodd/ 

‘Mr McTodd!’ said the new arrival, on a note of surprise. 

‘Yes, he found himself able to come after all/ ' 

‘Ah!’ said the Efficient Baxter. 

It occurred to Psmith as a passing thought, to he gave 

no more than a momentary attention, that this spectacled and 
capable-looking man was gazing at him, as they shook hands, 
with a curious intensity. But possibly, he reflected, this was 
merely a species of optical illusion due to the other’s specta- 
cles. Baxter, staring through his spectacles, often gave people 
the impression of possessing an eye that could pierce six inches 
of harveyized steel and stick out on the other side. Having 
registered in his consciousness the fact that he had been stared 
at keenly by this stranger, Psmith thought no more of the 
matter. 

In thus lightly dismissing the Baxterian stare, Psmith had 
acted injudiciously. He should have examined it more closely 
and made an effort to analyse it, for it was by no means with- 
out its message. It was a stare of suspicion. Vague suspicion 
as yet, but nevertheless suspicion. Rupert Baxter was one of 
those men whose chief characteristic is a disposition to sus- 
pect their fellows. He did not suspect them of this or that 
definite crime : he simply suspected them. He had not yet 
definitely accused Psmith in his mind of any specific tort or 
malfeasance. He merely had a nebulous feeling that he would 
bear watching. 

Miss Peavey now fluttered again into the centre of things. 
On the arrival of Baxter she had withdrawn for a moment 
' into the background, but she was not the wT)man to stay there 
long. She came forward holding out a small oblong book, 
which, with a languishing firmness, she pressed into Psmith’s 
hands. 

‘Could 1 persuade you, Mr McTodd,’ said Miss Peavey 
pleadingly, ‘to write some little thought in my autograph- 
book and sign it? I have a fountain-pen.’ 

Light flooded the arbour. The Efficient Baxter, who knew 



Baxter Suspects 1 1 x 

where everything iras, had found and pressed the switch. He 
did this not so much to oblige Miss Peavey as to enable him 
to obtain a clearer view of the visitor. Wirh each minute that 
passed thef'Efiicient Baxter was finding himself more and more 
doubtful in Ms mmd about this visitor. 

‘The«eP«Aid Miss Peavey, welcoming the illumination. 

Psmith tapped his chin t hough tAilly with the fountain-pen. 
He felt that he should have foreseen this emergency earlier. 
If cvet there was a woman who was bound to have an auto- 
graph-book, that woman was Miss Peavey. 

‘Just some little thought . . .’ 

Psnijth hesitated no longer. In a firm hand he wrote the 
words ‘Across the pole parabola of Joy . . adding an un- 
faltering ‘Ralston McTodd and handed tlie bor^k back. 

‘How stiange,’ sighed Miss Peavey. 

\May I look?’ said Baxter, moving quickly to her side. 

‘How strai ge!' iep».atcd Ahss Peavey. ‘To tlnnk that you 
should have chosen that line ! There arc several of \our more 
m\stic passau-cs that I meant to ask you to explain, but par- 
ticuLily “An OSS the pale paiabola of Jov” • . 

‘You find It difiicult to understand?’ 

‘A little, 1 c uitess.’ 

‘Weil, well,’ said Psmith indulgently, ‘pediaps T did put a 
bit of top-spin on that one.’ 

‘1 beg your pardon?’ 

‘i say, perhaps it is a little ohscare. We must have a long 
char about it - later im.’ 

‘Why not now?’ demanded the lillieaenr Baxter, flashing 
his spectacles. 

‘I am rather tired/ said Psmith with gentle reproach, ‘afteir 
my journey. Fatigued. \)Cc arti>ts . . .’ 

‘Of course/ said Miss Pcavc\, with an indignant glance at 
the secrctaiy. ‘Mr Baxter does nor understand the sensitive 
poetic temperament.’ 

‘A bit unspitjtual, ch.^’ said Psmith tolerantly trifle 
earthy? So T thought, so I thought. One these strong, hard 
men of affairs, I shouldn’t wonder.’ 



112 


Leave it to Psmth 


‘Shall we go and find Lord Etnswt>rth, Mr McTodd?’ said 
Miss Pcavey, dismissing the fcimcnting Baxter with a scornful 
look. ‘He wandeied ofl just now. I suppose he is among hts 
flowers. Flowers arc very beautiful by night.’ 

‘Indeed, yes,’ said Psmith. ‘And also by day^^WWn T am 
surrounded by tlowcrs, a sort of divine peace ttobds Over me, 
and the rough, harsh world seems fat a'^\a}. I feel soothed, 
tranquil. 1 sometimes think, Miss Pea\ c\ . th it llov^eis must be 
the souls of little chiklTCn who have died m then innocence.’ 

‘What a beautiful thought, Mt McTodd!’ exclaimed Miss 
Pea\ ey rapturoush . 

‘Yes,’ aeieed Psmith. ‘Don’t pinch it. It’s copyright ’ 

The darkness swallowed them up. Lad> Constance turned 
to the Efficient Baxter, who xvas brooding with fui rowed 
b.ow. 

‘Chaiming, is he not'"’ 

‘I Leg your pardon^’ 

‘I said 1 thought Mr McTodd w'as charming.* 

‘Oh quite.’ 

‘ Completely unspoiled.’ 

‘Oh, decidedl} 

‘ 1 am S(j glrtd that he w^as able to come aftei all That tele- 
gram he sent this afternoon cancelling his \ isit secmetl so curt 
and final.’ 

‘So I thought it.’ 

‘Almost as if he had taken offence at something and decided 
to have nothing to do with us.’ 

‘Quite.’ 

Lady Constance shivered delicately A ^ool bTetx.c had 
«piung up. She drew her wtap moic dost Iv about her shape! \ 
shoulders, and began t(j walk tn the house. Baxter did not 
accompany her. The moment she had gone he sw itched off the* 
light and sat down, chin m hand That massisc brain w^a'* 
working ha-d. 



CHAPTER 8 


Confidences on the Lale 

1 

*"jyyriss halltday/ aniiDunccd the Eihcjcnt Baxter, le- 
JLVL movins; another letter fiom its envelope and sub- 
mitting It to a swift, keen ^ciutiny, "arnets at about three to- 
da\. She is catehing tne tvitl\e-Mt^ tram.’ 

I le placed the letter on the pile beside his plate ; and, havmit 
decapitated an egg, peered sharply into its intci lor as it hoping 
tf» surprise guilt\ secrets, tor it was the btcaVfast hour, and 
the members of the house p^rty, scattered up and down tbt 
long table, wc e forii^\ing their tissues against another dat. 
An agiecabJc scent of bacon floated o\cr the scene like a 
bsocdiction. 

Lord Ernswoith looked up fiom the '•ecd catalogue in which 
he was immersed. For sonu time past his enjoyimnt of the 
meal had been marred b> a \ ague sense of something missing, 
and now he knew what it wa^. 

‘Coffee!’ he said, not \if)lentl>, but m the vr>icc of a good 
man oppressed. ‘I want coflee 'VChy have 1 no coffee? Con- 
>Unec, my d^ar, 1 should ha\e cohvc. Why ha\e I none?’ 

‘I’m sure I ga\t you some,’ said Lady Constance, brightly 
presiding over the be vet ages at the oth^f end of the table. 

‘Then where is it?’ demanded his lordship clinchmgly. 

Baxter - almost regretfuilv, it seemed ~ gave the egg a clean 
bill of health, and turned in his able way to cope with this 
domestic pioblcm. 

‘Your coflee is behind the catalogue }ou are leading. Lord 
Emsw^orth. Y^ou propped the catalogue against your cup.’ 

‘Did 1? Did 1? Why, so 1 did! Bless my soul!’ Elis lotdship, 
relieved, took an invigorating sip. ‘ Wbat were you saymg just 
then, my dear fellow ? ’ 

113 



heave it to Psmitb 


1 14 

‘I have had a letter from Miss Halliday/ said Baxter. ‘She 
writes that she is catching the twclve-hfty ttain at Paddington, 
which means that she should arrive at Market Blandings at 
about three.’ , 

asked Miss Peavey, in a low, thrilling voice, ceasing 
for a moment to peck at her plate (^f kedgeree, ‘is !Miss 
Halhday?’ 

‘The exact question I was about to ask myself/ said Lord 
Emsworth. ‘Baxter, my dear fellow, who is Miss Halliday?’ 

Baxter, with a stifled sigh, was about to refresh his employ- 
er's memory, when Psmith anticipated him. P')mith had been 
consuming toast and mannaladc with his customary languid 
grace and up till now had firmly cliecked all attempts to en- 
gage him in cvinvcrsation. 

‘ALss llaliiday,’ he said, ‘is a vcr\ old and valued fnend of 
mine, two have, so to ^pcak, pulled the go wans fine. I 
had been hoping to heat ♦hat she had been sighted on the 
horizon/ 

The effect of these woicls on two of the company was some- 
what remarkable. Baxter, hearing them, gave such a violent 
start that lie spilled half the contents of his cup : and P’roddic, 
who had been flitting J.ke a butreifly among the dishes on the 
sideboard and huxl decided to help himself to scrambled 
eggs, deposited a liberal spoonful on the carpet, wheie u was 
found and sahaged a moment later b^; J.ady Constance’s 
spaniel. 

Psmiih did not obser-^^e these phenomena, for he had re- 
turned to his toast and marmalade. He thin missed encounter- 
ing perhaps the keenest glance that had ever come througn 
Rupert Baxter’s spectacltn. it was not a pi oti acted ghnee, but 
while It lasted it was like the ray from an oxy-acetylcne blow- 
pipc. 

‘A friend of yours?’ sa.id Lord Emsworth. ‘Indeed? Of 
course, Baxter, 1 remember now. Miss Halliday is the young 
lady who is coming to catalogue the library.’ 

‘What a delightful task!’ cooed Miss Pcavcy. ‘To live 
among the stored up thoughts of dead and gone genius 1’ 



Canfidences on the l^ke \ \ 5 

‘You had better go down and meet ]\ef, my dcai fellow,’ 
said Lord iimsv/orth. ‘At the station, you know/ he con- 
tinued, clarifying his meaning. ‘She will be glad to see 
you.’ 

‘ T was about to suggest it myself,’ said Psmith. 

‘Though why the library need^' cataloguing/ said his lr)rd- 
ship, returning to a problem which still vexed his soul when 
he had leisure fo give a thought to it, ‘I can’t . . . Howxver . . 

] le finished Ins cotiec and rose fioin the table. A stray shaft 
of sunlight had fallen pi ov< natively on his bald head, and 
sunshine always made him restive. 

‘Are you going to your floueis. Lord Emsworth?’ asked 
Miss Peavey. 

‘Eh? What? Yes. Oh, y^^es. Going to have a look at those 
lobelias." 

‘I will acccmipany n^ou^ if I mav/ said Psmith. 

‘Eh? Why, ecrtaiify, certainh.’ 

‘1 have always held,’ said Psmith, ‘that thetc is no finer 
tonic than a g<H)d look at a lf)bclia immediately after break- 
fast. Doctors, 1 believe, recommend it/ 

‘Oh, 1 say / said Freddie hastily, as be reached the door, ‘can 
I have a couple of words with you a bit later cm?’ 

‘A thousand if y^ou wish it/ said Psmith. ‘Yon will find me 
somewliere out there m the great open spaces where men are 
nicn.’ 

He included the entue company in a benevolent smile, and 
left the ro(mi. 

‘How charming he is I’ sighed Miss Peavey. ‘Don't you 
think so, Mr Baxiei?’ 

The Efficient Baxter seemed for a moment to find some 
difficulty m replying. 

‘Oh, very,’ he said, but not heartily’. 

‘And such a soul ! It shines on that wonderful brow of his, 
doesn't it?’ 

‘ He has a good forehead,’ said Lady Constance. ‘But I wish 
he wouldn’t wear his hair so short. Somehow it makes him 
seem unlike a poet/ 



I J 6 L^ave ii to P smith 

Freddie, alarmed, swallowed a mouthful of scrambled 

Oh, he’s a poet all right/' he said hastily. 

"'Well, really, Freddie,' said Lady Constance, piqued, 
think wc hardly n&odyou to tell us that.’ 

‘No, no, of course. But what I mean is, in spite of his 
WTaring his hair short, you know.’ 

‘ I ventured to speak to him of that yesterday,’ said Miss 
Peavey, ‘and he said he rather expected to be wearing it 
even shorter very soon.’ 

‘Freddie!’ cried Lady Constance with asperity. ‘What are 
you doing?’ 

A brown lake of tea was filling the portion of the table- 
cloth immediately opposite the Hon. Frederick Threepwood. 
Like the Efficient Baxter a few minutes before, sudden 
emotion had caused him to upset his cup. 

II 

The scrutiny of Ids lordship’s lobelias had palled upon Psmiih 
at a fairly early stage in the proceedings, and he was sitting 
on the terrace wall enjoying a meditative cigarette when 
Freddie found him. 

‘Ah, Comrade Threepwood,’ said Psniith, ‘welcome to 
Blandings Castle! You said something about wishing to 
have speech with me, if I remember rightly?’ 

The lion. Freddie shot a nervous glance about him, and 
seated himself on the wall. 

‘I say,’ he said, ‘I wish you wouldn't say things like that.’ 

‘Like what. Comrade Threepwor^d ’ 

‘What you said to the Peavey woman.' 

‘I recollect having a refreshing chat with Peavey 

yesterday afternoon,’ said Psmith, ‘but J cannot recall saying 
anything calculated to bring the blush of bhamc to the check 
of modesty. What observation of mine was it that meets with 
your censure?’ 

‘Why, that stuff about expecting to wear yoe. hai»* shorter. 
If you’re going to go about saying that sort ol thing - well. 



Confidences on the Lake 117 

ihsh it, you might just as well give the whole bally show away 
at once and have done with it/ 

Psmith nodvled gravely. 

‘Your generous heat. Comrade Threepwood, is not un- 
justified. It was undoubtedly an error of judgement. If I have a 
fault - which I am not prepared to admit - it is a perhaps 
ungentlemanly desire to pull that curious female's leg. A 
stronger man than myself might well find it hard to battle 
against the temptation. However, now that you have called it 
to my notice, it shall not occur again. In future 1 will moderate 
the persiflage. Cheer up, therefore. Comrade Threepwood, and 
let us see that merry smile of yours, of which 1 hear such good 
reports.’ 

The appeal failed to alleviate Ficddie’s gloom, ife smote 
morosely at a fly which had settled on his furrowed brow. 

‘Tm getting as jumpy as a cal,’ he said. 

‘Fight against this unmanh weakness/ urged Psmith. ‘As 
far as I can ^ee, c\erything is goiiig aU)ng mcely.’ 

‘I’m not so sure. I believe that blighter Baxter suspects 
something.’ 

‘What do you think he suspects?’ 

‘ Wh)% that there's something fishy about you.’ 

Psmith winced. 

‘I would be infinitely obliged to you. Comrade Threep- 
wood, if you would riot use that particular adjective. It awak- 
ens old memories, all \cry painful. But let us go more deeply 
into this matter, for you mtciest me strangely. Why do you 
think that cheery old Baxter, a delightful personality if ever ) 
met one, suspects me?’ 

‘ It’s the way he looks at you.’ 

‘I know what you mean, but I attribute no importance to it. 
As far as I have been able to ascertain during my brief visit, 
he looks at everybody and everything in precisely the same 
way. Only last night at dinner 1 observed him glaring with 
keen mistrust at about as blameless and innocent a plate of 
clear soup as was ever dished up. He then proceeded to shovel 
it dovm with quite undisguised relish. So possibly you are all 



1 1 8 Leave it to L smith 

wrong about his motive for looking at me like that. It may be 
admiration." 

‘Well, I doii^t like it." 

‘Nor, from an aesthetic point of view, do J. But we must 
beat these things manfully. We must remind ourselves that it 
is Baxter’s misfortune rather than his fault that he looks like a 
dyspeptic lizard." 

Freddie was not to be consoled. Flis gloom deepened. 

‘And it isn’t only Baxter." 

‘What L*lsc is on your mind?" 

‘The whole atmosphere of the place is getting rummy, if 
you know what I mean." lie bent towards Psmitli and whim- 
pered pallidly, ‘1 say, I believe that new housemaid is a de- 
tective!" 

Psraith eyed him patiently. 

‘Which nf.‘w housemaid. Comrade Threepwood? Broofling, 
as I do, pretty tensely all the time on deep and wonderful 
subjects, 1 have little leisure to keep tab on the domeuic 
staff. Is there a new housemaid?" 

‘Yes. Susan, her name is.’ 

‘Susan? Susan? That sounds all right. Just tlie name a real 
housemaid would have." 

‘Did you ever," demanded Freddie earnestly, ‘see a real 
housemaid sweep under a bureau?" 

‘Does she?" 

‘Caught her at it in my room this morning." 

‘But isn’t it a trifle far-fctchcd to imagine that she is a de- 
tective? Why should sh * be a detective?" 

‘Well, I"vc seen such a dashed lot of filnih where the hous^-- 
maid or the parlourmaid or wliat not weic detectives. Makes 
a fellow uneasy." 

‘ Fortunately," said Psmith, ‘there is no necessity to remain 
in a state of doubt. 1 can give vou an unfailing method by 
means of which you may discover if she is what she would 
have us believe lier." 

‘What"s that?" 

‘Kiss her." 



Confidences on the Lake 


119 


*Kiss her I* 

‘Precisely. Go to her and say, “Susan, you’re a very pretty 
girl...’” 

‘ But she isn’t.’ 

‘We will assume, for purposes of argument, that she is. Go 
to her and say, “ Susan, you are a very pretty girl. What would 
you do if I were to kiss you?” If she is a detective, she will 
reply, “ I low dare you, sir ! ” or, possibly, more simply, “ Sir 1” 
Wheicas if she is the genuine housemaid T believe her to be 
and only sweeps under bureaux out of pure zeal, she will 
giggle and remark, “Oh, don’t be silly, sii !” ^'ou appreciate 
the distinction?* 

‘How do you know?’ 

‘My grandmother told me. Comrade Threepwood. My ad- 
vice to you, if the state of doubt you arc in is affecting your 
enjoyment of life, is to put the matter to the test at the earliest 
convenient opportunity’.’ 

‘I’ll think it over,’ said Freddie dubiously. 

Silence fell upon him for a space, and Psmith was well con- 
tent to have it so. He had no specific need of hVeddie’s prattle 
to help him enjoy the pleasant sunshine and the scent of Angus 
McAllister’s innumerable flowers. Presentiv. however, his 
companion was off again. But now there was a different note 
in his voice. Alarm seemed to have given place to something 
which appeared to he embarras’^’ment. He coughed several 
times, and his neatly-shod feet, writhing m self-conscious 
circles, scraped against the wall. 

‘I say I’ 

‘You have our car once imire. Comrade Threepwood,’ said 
Psmith politely. 

‘1 say, what I really came out here to talk about was some- 
thing V Isc. T say, are 3'()u really a pal of Miss Halliday’s?’ 

‘vVssurcdly. Wh} ?’ 

‘I say!’ A rosy blush mantled tlie Hon. Freddie’s young 
cheek. ‘ 1 say, I wish you would put in a word for me, then.’ 

‘ Put in a word for you ? ’ 

Freddie gulped. 



120 


Leave it to P smith 


love her, dash itP 

*A noble emotion,’ said Psmith courteously. * When did you 
feel it coming on?* 

‘Tve been in love with her for months. But she won’t look 
at me.* 

‘That, of course,* agreed Psmith, ‘must be a disadvantage. 
Yes, I should imagine that that would stick the gaff into tne 
course of true love to no small extent.* 

‘ I mean, won’t take me seriously, and all that. Laughs at 
me, don’t you know, when I propose. What would you 
do?* 

‘I should stop proposing,* said Psmith, having giveti the 
matter thought. 

‘But I can’t.* 

‘Tut, tut!* said Psmith severely. ‘And, in case the expres- 
sion is new <o you, what I mean is “Pooh, pooh!** Just say to 
yourself, “From now’ on I will not start proposing until after 
lunch.** That done, it wall be an easy step to do no proposing 
during the afternoon. And by degrees you will find that you 
can give it up altogether. Once you have conquered the im- 
pulse for the aftcr-breakfast proposal, the rest will be eas\. 
The first one of the day is always the hardest to drop.* 

‘1 believe she thinks me a mere buttertly,*'said Freddie, who 
hfld not been listening to this most vsdiaablc homily. 

Psmith slid down from the wrall and^stretched himself. 

‘Why,* he said, ‘arc butterflies so often described as 
“mere”? I have heard them so called a hundred times, and I 
cannot understand the eason. . , . Well, it would, no doubt, 
be both interesting and improving to go into the problem, 
but at this point. Comrade Threepwood, I leave you. I would 
brood.’ 

‘ Yes, but, I sav, will you?* 

‘WillI w^hat?* 

‘Put in a word for me?* 

‘If,’ said Psnxith, ‘the subject crops up in the ccurse of the 
chit-chat, 1 shall be delighted to spread mysc!'" with no little 
vim on the theme of your fine qualities.’ 



T2I 


Confidences on the Lake 

He melted away into the shrubben", just in time to avoid 
Miss Pcavey, who broke in on Freddie’s meditations a moment 
later and kept him company till luncli. 

nr 

The twelve-fifty train drew up with a grinding of brakes at 
the platform of Market Blandings, and Psmith, wdio had been 
whiling aw’ay the time of w aitmg by squandering money which 
he could ill afford on the >lot-machinc which supplied butte t- 
scotch, turned and submitted it to a grave scrutiny. Eve llalli- 
day got out of a third-class compartment. 

‘Welcome to our village, Misv JIalliday/ said Psmilh, ad- 
vancing. 

Eve regarded him with frank astonishment. 

‘What are you doing here?’ she asked. 

‘Lord Emsworth was kind enough to suggest that, as 
were such old friends, I should come clown in the car and 
meet you/ 

‘Arc wc old friends?’ 

‘Surely. Have you forgotten all those happy days in Lon- 
don.''’ 

‘ There was ojJ.y one.’ 

‘True. But thitik how' manv meetings wu crammed into u.' 

‘Arc you staying at^the castle?’ 

‘Yes. And what Is'moie, I am the life and soul of the 
party, f lave )ou anything m the shape of luggage?’ 

H nearly always take luggage when 1 am going to sta} a 
month or so in the country. It's at the back somewhere.’ 

‘ t will h)ok aftei it. You wnll find the car outbidc. If you 
care to go and sit in it, I will join you in a moment. And, lest 
the time hangs heavy on your hands, take this. Buttcr-scotch. 
Dclicicjs, and, so I understand, whoksome. I bought it 
specially for you.’ 

A fewr minutes later, having ananged for the trunk to be 
taken to the castle, Psmith emerged from the station and found 
Eve drinking in the beauties of the towm of Maiket Bind- 
ings. 



122 


l^ave it to P smith 


‘What a delightful old place/ she said as they drove oiF. ‘I 
almost wish I lived here.’ 

‘During the brief period of my stay at the castle/ said 
Psmith, ‘the same thought has occurred to me. It is the sort 
of plaqp where one feels that one could gladly settle down into 
a peaerful retirement and grow a honey-coloured beard.’ He 
looked at her with solemn admiration. ‘Women arc wonder- 
ful/ he said. 

‘And why, Mr Bones, arc women wonderful?’ asked Eve. 

‘I was thinking at the moment of your appearance. You 
have just stepped oif the train after a four-hour jtiurncy, and 
you are as fresh and blooming as - if I may coin a simile - a 
rose. How do you do it? When I arrived I was deep in alluvial 
deposits, and have only just managed to scrape them off.’ 

‘When did you arrive?’ 

‘On the evening of the day on which I met 5^011.’ 

‘But it’s so extraordinary. That you should be here, I mean. 
I was wondeting if I should ever sec ^ou again,’ Eve coloured 
a litde, and went on rather hurriedly. *I mean, it seems so 
strange that we should always be meeting like this.’ 

‘Fate, probably,’ said Smith. ‘I hope it isn’t going to spoil 
your visit?’ 

‘Oh, no.’ 

‘I could have done with a trifle more emphasis on the last 
word/ said Psmith gently. ‘Forgive me for criticizing your 
methods of voice production, but suiel)’’ you can see how 
much better it would have sounded spoken thus : “Oh, 

Eve laughed. 

‘Very well, then,’ she said. ‘Oh, m,* 

‘Much better,’ said Psmith. ‘Much better.’ 

He beganto sec that it was going to be difficult t(j ntroducca 
eulogy of the Hon. Freddie Threepwood into this conversation. 

‘I’m very glad you’re here/ said Eve, icsuming the talk 
after a slight pause. ‘Because, as a matter of fact. I’m feeling 
just the least bit nervous.’ 

‘ Nervo us ? Why ? ’ 

‘This is my first visit to a place of this size.’ The car had 



Confidences on the Lake 125 

fumed in at the big stone gates, and they were bowling 
smoothly up the winding drive. Thiough an avenue of trees 
to the tight tlie great bulk of the castle had just appeared, 
grey and imposing against the sky. The afternoon sun glit- 
tered on the lake beyond it. ‘ Is e\ cr} thing very stately?’ 

‘Not at all. We are very homely folk, we of Blandings 
Castle. We go about, simple and unalfceted, dropping gracious 
words all over the place, i-ord Emswoith didn’t overawe you, 
did he?’ 

‘Ob, he’s a dear. And, of course, I know Freddie quite well.’ 

Psnuth nodded. If she knew Freddie quite well, there was 
naturally no need to talk about him. He did not talk about 
him, therefore. 

Have you known Lord Emsworth long?’ asked Eve. 

■ I met hini for the htst time the day I met you.’ 

‘Good gracious!’ Eve stared. ‘And he mvited you to the 
castle?’ 

Psmith smoothed his waistcoat. 

‘Strantre, I agree. One can only account for it, can one not, 
by suppi'»smg that I radiate stmic extraordinary attraction. 
Have you noticed it?’ 

‘No!’ 

‘No?’ said Psmith, surprised. ‘Ah, well,’ he went on lolei- 
antl), ‘no doubt it will flash upon you qu'te unexpectedly 
sooner or later. Like a thunderbedt or something.’ 

‘1 think you’re terribly conceited.’ 

‘Not at all,’ said Psmith. ‘Conceited? No, nf>. Success haa 
not spoiled me/ 

‘Have }ou had any success?’ 

‘None whatever.’ The car stopped. ‘Wc get df/wn here/ 
said Psmith, opening the dc/or. 

‘Here? Why?’ 

‘Because, if wc go up to the hciuse, you will infallibly be 
pounced on and set to WL>rk by one Baxter - a dehghtful fel- 
low, but a whale for toil. 1 propose to conduct you on a tour 
round the grounds, and then wc will go for a low on the lake* 
You will enjoy that/ 



124 


Leave it to P smith 


‘You seem to have mapped out my future for me.* 

‘I have,’ said Psmith with emphasis, and in the monocled 
eye that met hers Eve detected so beaming a glance of esteem 
and admiration that she retreated warily into herself and en- 
deavoured to be frigid, 

‘I’m afraid I haven’t time to wander about the grounds,’ she 
said aloofly. ‘I must be going and seeing Mr Baxter.’ 

‘Baxter,’ said Psmith, ‘is not one of the natural beauties of 
the place. Time enough to see him when you arc compelled to 
. . . We are now in the southern pleasaunce or the west homo 
park or something. Note the refined way the deer are cropping 
the grass. All the ground on which we are now standing is ('f 
historic intcLcst. Oliver Cromwell went through here in 1550 . 
The record has since been lowered.' 

‘ [ haven’t time . • . ’ 

‘Leaving the pleasaunce i>n our left, we proceed to the 
northern messuage. The dandelions were imported from 
Egypt by the ninth Earl.’ 

‘ Well, anyhow,’ said Eve mutinously, ‘1 won’t come on the 
lake.’ 

‘ You will enjoy the lake,’ said Psmith. ‘ The newts arc of the 
famous old Blandings strain. They wore introduced, together 
with the water-beetles, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Loi.d 
Emsworth, of course, holds manorial rights over the mos- 
quito-swatting.’ 

Eve was a girl of high and haughty spirit, and as such 
strongly resented being appropriated and havmg her move- 
ments directed by one v ho, in spite of his specious claims, was 
almcjst a stranger. But somehow she found her companion’s 
placid assumption of authority hard to resist. Almcst meekly 
she accompanied him through meadow and shrubbery, over 
velvet lawns and past gleaming flower beds, and her indigna- 
tifin evaporated as her eyes absorbed the beauty of it all. She 
gave a little sigh. If Market Blandings had seemed a place in 
which one might dwell happily, Blandings Castle was a para- 
dise. 

‘Before us now,* said Psmith, ‘lies the celebrated Yew 



Confidences on the Lake i z 5 

Alley, so called from the yews which hem it in. Speaking in 
my capacity of guide to the estate, I may say that when wc 
have turned this next corner you will see a most remarkable 
sight.’ 

And they did. Before them, as they passed in under the 
boughs of an aged tiec, lay a green vista, faintly dappled with 
stray shafts of sunshine. In the middle of this vista the lion. 
Frederick Threepwood was embracing a young woman in the 
dress of a housemaid. 


IV 

Psmith was the first of the little group to recover from the 
shock of this unexpected encounter, the Hon. Freddie the last. 
That unfortunate youth, meeting Eve's astonished eye as he 
jaised his head, froze where he stood and remained with his 
mouth open until she had disappeared, which she did a few 
moments later, led away by Psmith, who, as he went, diiectcd 
at his young liicnd a look in which sui prise, pain and reproof 
were so nicely blended that it would have been ha id to sav 
w'hich predominated. All that a spectator could have said 
with certainty was that Psmith’s finer feelings had suffered a 
^evcre hlow^. 

‘ A painful scene,’ he remarked to E\ c, as he drew^ Iici away 
in the direction of the, house. ‘But wc must alwa\s stri\e to 
be charitable. He may have been taking a fly out of her c\e, 
or teaching her jiu-jitsu.’ 

hlc looked at her searchingly. 

‘You seem less revolted,’ he said, ‘than one inicht have 
expected. This argues a sweet, shall we say' angehc aj''po-Jtion 
and confirms my already high opinion you.’ 

‘Thank you.’ 

‘Not at all. Mark you,’ ^aid Psmith, *1 don’t think that this 
sort of thing is a hobby of Comrade Thiecpw^ood’s. 1 Ic prob- 
ably has many other ways of passing hi> spare time. Remember 
that before you pass judgement upon him. Also- Young Blood, 
and all that sort of thing/ 

‘1 haven’t any intention of passing judgement upon him. It 



Leave it to Psmith 


126 

doesn’t interest me what Mr Threepwood does, either in bis 
spare time or out of it.’ 

* I Iis interest in you, on the other hand, is vast. 1 forgot to 
tell you beft^re, but he loves you. 1 Ic asked me to mention it if 
the conversation happened to veer round in that direction.’ ' 

‘I know he docs,’ said Eve ruefully. 

‘And does the fact slir no chord in you?’ 

‘I think he’s a nuisance.’ 

‘That,’ said Psmith cordially, ‘is the tight spirit. I like to see 
it. Very well, then, wc will discard the topic of Freddie, and I 
will tr}^ to find others that may interest, elevate, and amuse 
you. We are now approaclung the main buildings. 1 am no ex- 
pert in architecture, so cannot tell you all I*could wish about 
the fagadc, but ^^ou can sec there is a fa 9 aJe, and in my opinion 
- for what it is woith - a jolly good one. VC'e approach by a 
sweeping gravel walk.’ 

‘I am going in to report to Air Baxter,’ said Eve with deci- 
sion. ‘It’s too absurd, 1 mustn’t spend my time strolling about 
the grounds. 1 must see Mr BaKtcr at »>nce.' 

Psmith inclmtd his head courteously. 

‘Nothing easier. That big, open window there is the hbiaiy. 
Doubtless Comrade Baxter is sumewheit^ inside, toiling away 
among the archives.’ 

‘Yes, but I can’t announce myself by shouting to him.’ 

‘Assuredly not,’ said Psmith. ‘No need for that at ail. l.eavc 
it to me,’ He stooped and picked up a large flower-prit which 
stood under the ten ace wall, and before E\c could intert^enc 
had tossed it lightly ijirough the c^pen window. A muffled 
thud, folhjwcd by a sharp oxclamaticjn from within, cause ^ a 
faint smile of gratification to illumine his solemn countenance. 
‘JIc 2 S in, 1 thought he would be. Ah, Baxter,’ he said gra- 
ciously, as the upper half of a body surmounted by a spectacled 
face framed itself suddenly in the window, ‘a pleasant, sunny 
afternoon. How is everything?’ 

The Efficient Baxter struggled for utterance. 

‘You look like the Blessed Damozel gazin; iown from the 
gold bar of Heaven,’ said Psmith genially. ‘Baxter, 1 want to 



Confidences on the Lake 127 

introduce you to Miss Halliday. She arrived safely after a 
somewhat fatiguing journey. You will like Miss Halliday. If 
I had a library, I could not wish for a more courteous, oblig- 
ing, and capable cataloguist.^ 

This striking and unsolicited testimonial made no appeal to 
the Efficient Baxter. His mind seemed occupied with other 
matters, 

‘Did you throw that flovvet-pot?’ he demanded coldly. 

‘You will no doubt/ said Psmith, ‘wish on some later occa- 
sion to have a nice long talk with Miss Halliday in order to 
give her an outline of her duties. I have been showing her the 
grounds and am about to take her for a row on the lake. But 
after that she will — and 1 know I may speak for Miss Halliday 
in this matter - be entirely at your disposal/ 

‘Did you throw that ffower-pot?' 

‘1 look forward confidently to the pleasantest of associa- 
tions between you and Miss Halliday. You will find her/ said 
Psmith warmiy, ‘a willing assistant, a tireless worker/ 

‘Did you . , .?' 

‘But now/ said Psmith, ‘I must be tearing myself away. In 
order to impress Aliss Halliday, I put on my best suit when I 
went to meet her. For a row upon the lake something simpler 
in pale ffannei is indicated. I shall only be a few minutes/ he 
said to Eve. ‘Would you mind meeting me at the boat- 
house?” 

‘ 1 am not coming on the lake wdth you/ 

‘At the boat-house in - say - mx and a quarter minutes/ said 
Psmith with a gentle smile, and pranced into the house like a 
long-legged mustang. 

Eve remained where she stood, struggling between laughter 
and embarrassment. The Efficient Baxter was still leaning 
wrathful ly out of the library window, and it began to seem a 
little difficult to carry on an ordinary conversation. The prob- 
lem of what she was to say in order to continue the scene in an 
agreeable manner was solved by the arrival of Lend Emsworth, 
who pottered out from the bushes with a rake in his hand. He 
stotxl eyeing Eve for a moment, then memory seemed to wake. 



l^mve it to PsmitA 


iz8 

Eve’s appearance was easier to renieraber, possibly, than some 
of the things which his lordship was wont to forget. He 
came forward beamingly. 

^ Ah, there you are. Miss . . . Dear me. I’m really afraid T have 
forgotten your name. My memory is excellent as a rule, but I 
cannot remember names . . . Miss Halliday! Of course, of 
course. Baxter, my dear fellow,' he proceeded, sighting the 
watcher at the window, ‘this is Miss Halliday.’ 

‘Mr AlcTodd,’ said the Ethdent One sourly, ‘has already 
introduced me to Miss Halliday.’ 

‘Has he? Deuced civil of him, dcuccd civil of him. But 
where is he?’ inquired his lordship, scanning the surrounding 
scenery with a vague e)e. 

‘He wamt into the house. Aflci,’ said Baxter in a cf'ld voice, 
‘throwing a flower-pot at me.’ 

‘ Doing what ? ’ 

‘He thiew a flower-pot at me,’ said Baxter, and vanished 
nioodii} . 

Lord Emsw’orth stared at the open window, then turned to 
Eve for enlightenment. 

‘ ir7>y did Baxtei throw' a llow'er-pol at McTodd?’ he said. 

‘ And,’ he went on, ventilating an even deeper question, ‘w'here 
the deuce did he get a flow'cr-pot? Tiieic are no flower p\;ts 
in the library.' 

Eve, on her side, was also seeking information. 

‘Did you ^a) his name wa^ McTodd, Lord Emsworth?' 

‘No, no. Baxter. That was Baxter, my serretarv,’ 

‘No, I mean the o' e w^ho me^me at the station.’ 

‘Baxter did nor meet yt>u at the station. The man who met 
you at the statitm,’ said Lord Emsworth, speaking slowfly, tor 
women are so apt to get things muddled, ‘was MrTodd. He’s 
staying here. Constance asked him, and I’m bound to say when 
I fir^t heard cT it 1 was not any too w^’cll pleased. 1 don’t like 
poets as a rule. But this fellow’s so diftcicnt from tlie other 
poets Fve mH. Difi'crent altogether. And/ said Lord Eins- 
worth w'lth not a little heat, ‘I stiongly ibject to Baxter 
throwing flower-pots at my guests,’ he sak. firmly; for Lord 



Confidences on the Lake 129 

Emsworth, though occasionally a little vague, was keenly alive 
to the ancient traditions of his family regarding hospitality, 

*Is Mr McTodd a poet?* said Eve, her heart beating. 

*Eh? Oh yes, yes. There seems to be no doubt about that. 
A Canadian poet. Apparently they have poets out there. And,’ 
demanded his lordship, ever a fair-minded man, ‘why not? A 
remarkably growing country, I was there in the year ’98. Or 
was it,’ he added, thoughtfully passing a muddy hand over his 
chin and leaving a rich brown stain, ‘ ’99? I forget. My memory 
isn’t good for dates. ... If you will excuse me. Miss - Miss 
Halliday, of course - if you will excuse me, I must be leaving 
you. 1 have to see McAllister, my head gardener. An obstmate 
man. A Scotsman* If you go into the house, my sister Con- 
stance will give you a cup of tea* I don’t know what the time 
is, but 1 suppose there will be lea soon. Never take it myself.’ 

‘Mt McTodd asked me to go for a row on the lake.’ 

‘On the la^’c, eh? On the Lkei^ said his lordship, as if this 
was the last place in the neighbourhood w^here he would have 
expected to heat of people proposing to row. Then he bright- 
ened. ‘ Of course, yes, on the lake. 1 think you will like the lake, 
I lake a dip thcie myself every morning before breakfist. I 
Hnd it good for the health and appetite. I plung' in and swim 
perhaps fifty yards, and then return,’ Lord Ems worth sus- 
pended the gossip from the training camp in (jrder to look at 
his watch. ‘Dear me,’ he said, ‘I rmiot be gr ing. McAllister has 
been waiting fully ten minutes, G(Jod-b\e, then, for the 
present, Miss - cr - good-bye.’ 

And Lord Emswc>rth ambled off, or his face that look of 
tense concentration which it always wore when interviews w'ith 
Angus McAllister were in pro^pcct- the look which stem war- 
riors wear when about to meet a focman worth} of their steel. 


V 

There was a cold expression in Eve’s eyes as she made her way 
slowly to the boat-house. The information which she had just 
received had come as a shock, and she was trying to adjust her 
mind to it. When Miss Clarkson had told her of the unhappy 



Laave it to P smith 


130 

conclusion to her old school friend’s marriage to Ralston 
McTodJ, she had immediately, without knowing anything of 
the facts, arrayed herself loyally on Cynthia’s side and con- 
demned the unknown McTodd uncompromisingly and with- 
out hesitation. It was many years since she had seen Cynthia, 
and their fiiendship might almost have been said to have 
lapsed; but Eve’s affection, when she had once given it, was a 
durable thing, capable ot surviving long separation. vShe had 
loved Cynthia at school, and she could feel nothing but am- 
mosity towards anyone who h^d treated her badly, bhc eyed 
the glitteiine waiei of the lake frc>m undei lowered brows, and 
prepared to higid and hosiilc when the villain of the pi(‘cc 
should arrive. It was only when she heaid footsteps b>-liind 
her and turned to perceive Psinitli hutiying up, ladi.nf m 
gleaming flannel, that it occutitd to hi t toL tlie Irst tune that 
theie might have been faults on both suk s. She had not known 
Psmith long, it was true, but alreidy his pcrsi)ria1u\ luicl made 
a somewhat deep iinpiession on het, and she wa'- lo^lh to be- 
lievj that he could be the cillous scoujuiiel of hci imaginiti )n. 
She d.-cided to suspend ju Igcmcnt un*il ih\.y should be out in 
mid-watci anJ in a position to discuss the matti t without 
interruption. 

am a little late,’ sa’d Psmith, as lie cane up, 'I wa^ de- 
tained by our young fiiend Prcddie. Hl came irto my t\'>oni 
and staiti-d talkmg .ibout himsi^lt at the vl \ moment whv.n I 
wa'. tying my tic and needed evuy ounce ot eoncenliaOoii lor 
that delicate lask. The icceiit painful cpisotk ap]') aied to 
wenching on his mmd lo >ome extent.’ i L helped Lve mh) tlic 
boat and siaited to low. ‘1 conS'>kd hioi as best 1 coukl oy 
telling him that it would probalflt have made you think all the' 
me re higlfly of him. 1 vcntuicd the sugge-'tion liiat giil. Wfjr- 
ship the stiong, jough, dashing type of man. And, aftci 1 had 
done my b^st to convince him that he was a strong, lOugh, 
dashing man, I came away. By now, of ctrnrse, he mny have 
had a rcLpsc into despair; so, if y(m happen to sec a body 
bobbing about m the water as we row along, 'e will piobably 
be Freddie’s.’ 



Confidences on the luike 1 3 1 

* Never mind about Freddie/ 

don’t if you don*t/ said Psmith agreeably. *Very well, 
then, if we sec a body, we will ignore it/ He rowed on a few 
strokes, 'Correct me if 1 am wrong,* he said, resting on his 
oars and leaning forward, ‘but you appear to be brooding 
about something. If you will give me a clue, I will endeavour 
to assist you to grapple with any little problem winch is 
troubling you. What is the matter?* 

Eve, questioned thus directly, found it difficult to open the 
subject. She hesitated a moment, and let the water ripple 
through her fingers. 

‘1 have only just found out your name, Mr McTodd,* she 
said at length. 

Psmith nodded. 

‘It is always thus,* he said. ‘Passing through this life, we 
meet a fellow-mortal, chat awhile, and part ; and the last thing 
we think of doing is to ask him in a manly and direct way what 
his label is. There is something oddly furtive and shamefaced 
in one’s attitude towards people’s names. It is as if we shrank 
from probing some hideous secret. We say to ourselves “This 
pleasant stranger may be a Snooks or a Buggins. Better not 
inquire,” But in my case . . .* 

‘ It was a great shock to me.’ 

‘Now there/ said Psmith, ‘I cannot follow you, I wouldn’t 
call McTc^dd a bad name, as names go. Don’t you think there 
is a sort of Highland strength about it? It sounds to me like 
something out of “The Lady of the Lake” or “The Lay of the 
Last Minstrel.” “The stag at eve had drunk its fill adoon the 
glen beyint the hill, and welcomed with a friendly nod old 
Scotland’s pride, young Laird McTodd,” You don’t think it 
has a sort of wild romantic ring?’ 

‘I ought to tell you, Mr McTodd,* said Eve, ^that I was at 
school with Cynthia.* 

Psmith was not a young man who often found himself at a 
loss, but this remark gave him a bewildered feeling such as 
comes in dreams. It was p^ain to him that this delightful girl 
thought she liad said something serious, even impressive ; but 



132 


Leave it to 1^ smith 


for the moment it did not seem to him to make sense. He 
sparred warily for time. 

‘Indeed? With Cynthia? That must have been jolly/ 

The harmless observation appeared to have the worst effect 
upon his companion. The frown came back to her face. 

‘ Oh, don’t speak in that flippant, sneering way,’ she said. 
‘It’s so cheap.’ 

Psmith, having nothing to say, remained silent, and the boat 
drifted on. Eve’s face was delicately pink, for she was feeling 
extraordinarily embarrassed. There was something in the 
solemn gaze of the man before her which made it diflicull for 
her to go on. But, with the stout-heartedness which was one 
of her characteristics, she stuck to her task. 

* After all,’ she said, ‘however you ma} feel about lier now, 
ycju must have been fond of poor Cynthia at one time, or 1 
don’t see why you should have married her/ 

Psmith, for want of conversation, had begun rowing again. 
The start he gave at these lemarkable words caused him to 
skim the surface of the water with the left oar in such a 
manner as to send a liberal pint into Eve’s lap. IJc started 
forward with apologies. 

‘Oh, nc\cr mind about that/ said Elve impafientJy, ‘It 
doesn’t matter. . , . Mi McT(»dd,’ she said, and ihen. was a 
note of gentleness in her voice, ‘I do wish ton would lell me 
what the trouble was.’ 

Psmith stared at the floor of the boat in silence, i Ic was 
wrestling with a feeling of injury. True, he liad not duiing 
their brief conversation at the Senior Conservative Club s[>ecj- 
fically inquired of Mr McTodd whctlier he was a bachelor, out 
somehow he felt that the man should have dropp 'd some hint 
as to his married state. True, again, Mr McTodd had not asked 
him to impersonate him at Blandings Cattle. And yet, un- 
deniably, he felt that he had a grievance. Psmitli’s was an 
ordeily mind. He had proposed to continue the pleasant rela- 
tions which had begun between Eve and hir^self, seeing to it 
that every day they became a little pleasanter unril eventually, 
in due season, they should reach the point where it would 



Confidences on the Lake 1 3 3 

become possible to lay heart and hand at her feet. For theie 
was no doubt in his mind that in a world congested to ovei- 
flowing with girls Eve Halliday stood entirely alone. And now 
this infernal Cynthia had risen from nowhere to stand between 
them. Even a young man as liberally endowed with calm as- 
surance as he was might find it awkward to conduct his wooing 
with such a handicap as a wife in the background. 

Eve misinterpreted his silence. 

‘1 ^uppose you are thinking that it is no business of mine?’ 

Psmith came out of his thoughts with a start. 

‘No, no. Not at all.’ 

‘You see. I’m devoted to C}n^hia - and I like }ou.’ 

She smiled for the first lime. Hct cinbairassment was 
passing. 

‘That is the whole point,’ she said. ‘I do like you. And Fm 
quite sure that if you wcie really the sort of man J thought you 
when 1 first heard about all this, I shouldn’t. The friend who 
told me about you and Cynthia made it seem as if the whole 
fault had been yours. I got the imj-ircssion that you had been 
very unkind to Cynthia. 1 thought vou must be a brute. And 
w'hon Lord Emsw’orth told me who vou wic, my fiist im- 
pulse w'as to hate you. I think if you had come .dong )ust then 
I should have been rather horrid to you. But you were late, 
and that gave me time to think it over. Anti then I rcnicm- 
bered how nice you had been to me and felt somehow that - 
that you must really be quite nice, and it occuticd to me that 
there might be some explanation. And I thought that - per- 
h.ips - jf you would let me inteifc^c in your piivatc atfairs - 
and if things hadn’t gone too far - I might do something to 
help - try to bring you together, vou knenv.’ 

She broke off, a little confused, for now' that the words were 
out sne was conscious of a return of hei former shyness. Even 
though «'he was an old friend of Cynthia’s, theie did seem 
something insufferably officious in this meddling. And when 
she saw the look of pain on her companion’s face, she regretted 
that she had spoken. Naturally, she thought, he was offended. 

In supposing that Psmith was offenoed she w^as mistaken. 



134 Leapt it to smith 

Internally he was glowing with a renewed admiration for all 
those beautiful qualities in her which he had detected, before 
they had ever met, at several yards^ range across the street 
from the window of the Drones Club smoking-room, llis look 
of pain was due to the face that, having now had time to 
grapple with the problem, he had decided to dispose of this 
Cyntliia ojice and for all. He proposed to eliminate her for ever 
from his life. And the ebminaticm of even such a coinpaiative 
stranger seemed to him to caill for a pained look. So he as- 
sumed one. 

he said gravely, ‘-would, I fear, be impossible. It is 
like you to suggest it, and I cannot tell you how much I ipprc- 
ciatc the kindness wliich has made you interest youisclf in 
my troubles, but it is too late for any reconciLnti m. Cyntliia 
and I are divorced.’ 

For a moment the temptation had come to him to kill the 
woman off with some wasting sickness, but tliis he resist J as 
tending towards possible future complications. He was re- 
solved, however, that there should be :ii) questioa of bringing 
them together again. 

lie was disturbed to find Eve staring at him in amazement. 

‘DiVvirccd? But how can you be divOri ‘d? Ir’^ only a few 
days since you anJ she weie in Lond<m together.’ 

Psmiih ceased to wonder that Mr McTodtl had had trc'uble 
with his Wife. The woman was a perfect pest. 

‘I used die term in a spiritual rather than a legal sense,’ he 
replied. ‘True, there ha^ been no actual decree, but we .are 
sepal ated bcy(md hope of reunion.’ He saw the disticss in 
Eve’s eyes and hurried on. ‘There are thing>,’ he ^aid, ‘ whid, 
it is impv'ssiblc for a man to overlook, how-ever broad-minded 
he may be. Love, Miss Hallida3% is a delicate plant. It needs 
tending, nursing, assiduous fostering. This cannot be done by 
throwing the breakfist bacon at a husband’s head.’ 

‘What!’ Ev(‘’s astonishment was such tiiat the word came 
out in a start led squeak, 

the dish,’ said Psmith sadly. 

Eve’s blue eyes opened wide. 



135 


Confidences on the Lake 

‘ Cynthia did that!* 

•On more than one occasion. Her temper in the mornings 
was terrible. I have known her lift the car (;vcr two chairs and 
a settee with a single kick. And all because there were no 
mushrooms/ 

*But - but I can’t believe itP 

•Come over to Canada/ said Psrnith, 'and I will show you 
the cat/ 

'CyixJhia did thatl - Cynthia - why, she was always the 
gentlest lirtle creature/ 

‘At school, you mean?* 

‘Yes/ 

‘That/ said Psmith, ‘would, I Mipnose, be before she had 
taken to drink/ 

•Taken to drink!* 

P^inith was feeling liappicr. A passing thought did come to 
him that all this was perhaps a trifle rough on the absent C\n- 
thia, but he mistered the ujimanly weakness. It was necessary 
that Cyiitlua should sutler in the gov)d cause. Alicjulv he had 
begun to detect in Eve’s eyes the faint dawniiigs of an angelic 
pity, and pry rea»gni7cd by all the best aurhonlics as one 
of the most valuable crrtotions which y< 'ur w kk ' can awe ken. 

•Dnnk!’ Eve repeated, with a little ^luldder. 

'We lived in one of the dry provinces of Canruia, and, as o 
often happens, that started the trouble. Vtovi the miSiULUL wiicn 
she iastaJle'd a private still her d'»wrifall was i witi. I luve seen 
her, under rhe iulln.nce of home-brew, raue thnuigh tiie h- )ase 
like a devastating cyclone ... I hate speaking like tins of one 
who was your friend/ said Psmith, in a low, vibrating voice. 
‘I would not tell these things to anytuic bur you. The world, 
of course, supposes that the entire blaniL for the collapse of 
our hoinc was mine. 1 took care that it should be so. The 
opinion of the world matters Intle to me. But with you it is 
didcrent. I should not like you to think batliy of me. Miss 
Halliday. I do not make friends easily - 1 am a lonely man - 
but somehow it has seemed to me since we met that you and 
I might be friends.’ 



Leave it to P smith 


136 

Eve stretched her hand out impulsively. 

*Why, of course!* 

Psmith took her hand and held it far longer than was strictly 
necessary. 

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Thank you.’ 

lie turned the nose of the boat to the shore, and rowed 
slowly back. 

‘1 have suffered/ said Psnurh gravely, as he helped her 
ashore. ‘But, if you will be my friend, I think that I may 
forget.’ 

They walked m silence up the winding path to the castle. 

VI 

To Psmiih five minutes later, as he sat in his room smoking a 
cigarette and looking dreamily out at llic distant hills, there 
entered the lion. Ficdciick Threepwood, who, having closed 
the door behind him, tottered to the bed and uttered a deep 
and discordant groan. Psmith, his mind thus ruddy wrenched 
from pleasant meditations, turned and regatded the gh)omy 
youth with disfavour. 

‘At an} othci time. Comrade Threep'w ood,’ he said politely 
but with firmness, "c^-rtainK. But not n<»w. 1 am not in the 
vein.’ 

‘What?’ said the Hon. Freddie vacantly. 

‘ I say tliat at an} other time I shall be dehglitcd to listen to 
your faim}ard imitations, but not now. At the mciment I am 
deep in thoughts of my own, and I may say frankly that I re- 
gard }ou as more or less of an excrescence. 1 want solnude, 
solitude. 1 am in a beautiful reverie, and your presence )d/s 
upon me somewhat profoundl}.’ 

The Hon. Freddie ruined the symmetry of his ban jy passing 
his fingers feverishly through it. 

‘Don’t talk so much! I never met a fellow like } ou foi talk- 
ing.* flav ing mmpled his hair to the left, he w^ent through it 
again and rumpled it to the right, ‘I say, do you Liow what? 
You’ve jolly well got to clear out of here qui< He got up 
from the bed, and approached the window. Having done 



Confidences on the Lake 137 

wliich, he bent towards Psmith and whispered in his ear. ‘ The 
game’s upl’ 

Psmith withdrew his car with a touch of hauteur, but he 
looked at his companion with a little more interest. He had 
feared, when he saw Freddie stagger in with such melo- 
dramatic despair and emit so hollow a groan, that the topic on 
which he wished to converse was the already exhausted one 
of his broken heart. It now began to appear that weightier 
matters were on his mind. 

‘I fail to understand you. Comrade Threepwood,’ he said. 

‘ The last time I had the privilege of conversing with you, you 
informed me that Susan, or whatever her name is, merely gig- 
gled and told you not to be silly when you embraced her. In 
other words, she is not a detective. What has happened since 
then to get you all worked up?’ 

‘Baxter!’ 

‘What has Baxter been doing?’ 

‘ Only giving the whole bally show away to me, that’s all,’ 
said Freddie feverishly. He clutched Psmith’s arm violently, 
causing that exquisite to utter a slight moan and smooth out 
the wrinkles thus created in his sleeve. Listen! Tve just been 
talking to the blighter. I was passing the library just now, 
when he popped out of the door and hauled me in. And, dash 
it, he hadn’t been talking two seconds before I realized that he 
has seen through the whole dam’ thing practically from the 
moment you got here. Though he doesn’t seem to know that 
I’ve anything to do with it, thank goodness.’ 

‘ T should imagine not, if he makes you liis confidant. Why 
did he do that, by the way? What made him select you as the 
recipient of his secrets?’ 

‘As far as 1 can make out, his idea was to form a gang, if 
you know what I mean. He said a lot of stuff about him and 
me being the only two able-bodied young men in the place, 
and we ought to be prepared to tackle you if you started any- 
thing.’ 

‘ I see. And now tell me how our delightful friend ever hap- 
pened to begin suspecting that I was not all I seemed to be. 



Leave it to f smith 


138 

I had been flattering myself that I had put the little deception 
over with complete success.* 

‘ Well, in the first place, dash it, that dam’ fellow McTodd - 
the real one, you know - sent a telegram saying that he wasn’t 
coming. So it seemed rummy to Baxter bang from the start 
when you blew in all merry and bright.’ 

‘Ah I That was what they all meant by saying they were glad 
I had come “after all.” A phrase which at the moment, 1 con- 
fess, rather mystified me.’ 

‘And then you went and wrote in tlie Peavey female’s 
autograph-book.’ 

‘In what way v/as that a false move?’ 

^Why, that was the biggest bloomer on record, as it has 
turned out,’ said Freddie vehemently. ‘Baxter apparently keeps 
every letter that comes to the place on a file, and he’d skewered 
McTodd’s original letter with the rest. I mean, the one he 
wrote accepting the invitation to come here. And Baxter CL)m- 
pared his handwriting with what you wo'te in the Peavey’s 
album, and, of course, they weren’t a darn’ bit alike. And tliat 
pur the lid on ir,’ 

Psmith lit another cigirctte and drew at it thoughtfully. He 
realii?:ed that he had made a tactical error in undetestmiaiiay 
the antagorAl^'m of the Efikcieiit One. 

‘D )cs he seem to have any idea why I have come to the 
castle?’ he asked. 

‘Any idea? Wiiy, dash it, the very first thing lie said to me 
was that you must have come to sneak Aunt Connie’s neck- 
lace.’ 

‘In that case, why has he made no move till to-day? I should 
have supposed that he would Jong since have denomced me 
before as large an audience as he could assemble. Why this 
reticence on the part of genial old Baxter?’ 

A crimson flush of chivalrous indigoation spreafi itself over 
Freddie’s face. 

‘ He told me that, too.* 

‘There seem to have been no reserves between Comrade 
Baxter and yourself. And very healthy, too, this spirit of con- 



Confidences on the hake 139 

fidcnce. What was his reason for abstaining from loosing the 
bomb?* 

"He said he was pretty sure you wouldn’t try to do anything 
on your own. He thought you would wait till your accomplice 
arrived. And, damn him/ cried Freddie heatedly, "do you 
know who he’s got the infernal gall to think is your accom- 
plice? Miss Hallidayl Dash him! ’ 

Psmith smoked in thoughtful silence. 

"Well, of course, now that this has happened," said Freddie, 
H suppose it’s no good thinking of going on with the thing. 
You’d better pop off, what? If I were you, Fd leg it to-day and 
have your luggage sent on after you.’ 

Psmith threw away his cigarette and stretched himself. 
During the last few moments he had been thinking with some 
tenseness. 

‘Commdc Threepwood,’ he said reprovingly, ‘you suggest 
a cowardly and weak-minded action. I admit that the outlook 
would be distinctly rosier if no such person as Baxter were on 
the nremises, but nevertheless the thing must be seen through 
to a finish. At least we have this advantage over our spectacled 
friend, that wc know he suspects me and he doesn’t know we 
know. 1 think that with a little resource and ingenuity we may 
yet win through.’ He turned to the window and looked out. 
"Sad/ he sighed, ‘that these idyllic surroundings should have 
become oppressed with a cloud of sinister menace. One thinks 
one secs a faun popping about in the undergrowth, and on 
looking more closely perceives that it is in reality a detective 
v/irh a notebook. What one fancied was the piping of Pan 
turns out to be a police-whistle, summoning assistance. Still, 
we must bear these things without wincing. They arc out cross. 
Wnat you have told me will render me, if possible, warier and 
more siiake-like than ever, but my purpose remains firm. The 
cry goes round the castle battlements “Psmith intends to keep 
the old flag flying!” So charge off and soothe your quivering 
ganglions with a couple of aspirins. Comrade Threepwood, and 
leave me to my thoughts. All wfil doubtless come right in the 
future.’ 



CHAPTER 9 

^smith Engages a "Valet 


F rom out of the scented shade of the big cedai on the 
lawn in ftont of the castle Psmith looked at the llowcr- 
beds, jaunty and gleaming in the afternoon sun ; then he 
looked back at Eve, incredulity in cveiy fcatiiic. 

‘I must have misunderstood you. Surely,’ h^, said in a voice 
vibrant with reproach, ‘you do not seriously intend to wotk in 
weather like this ?’ 

*l must. I’ve got a conscience. The> aren’t paving me a 
handsome salary - a tairlv handsome salary ~ to sit abcut in 
deck-chairs.’ 

‘Bui you only came vestcrda\.’ 

‘Well, I ought to have woiked vcste^-day/ 

‘It seems to me,’ said Psmith, ‘the nearest thing to slavciy 
that I ha\e ever struck. I had hoped, st ing that e\* rvbody 
had gone off and left us alone, that we were going to spend a 
happy and instructive afternoon togethci u idci the shade of 
this noble tree, talking of this and that. Is it not to be^’ 

‘No, it is not. It’s luckv you’re not the one who’s sunposed 
to be catal('>guing this library. It would nevei get finisiied.* 
‘i^nd why, as your cmpJo)cr would say, should it? He has 
expressed the opinion several times in njy hearing that tae 
library has jogged along quite comforCabl} fot a great number 
of years without being catalogued. Why shouldn’t it go on 
like that indefimtcly?’ 

‘It’s no good trying to tempt me. There’s nothing I should 
like better tha^^ to loaf here for houis and hours, but what 
would Mt. Baxter say when he got back and found out?’ 

‘It is becoming increasingly clear to me eacn day that I stay 
in this place,* said Psmith moodily, ‘that Comrade Baxter is 

140 



Psmith Engages a Valet 141 

little short of a blister on the community. Tell me, how do you 
get on with him?* 

'I don’t like him much.” 

‘Nor do L It is on these communities of taste that life-long 
attachments are built. Sit down and let us exchange confid- 
ences on the subject of Baxter.’ 

Eve laughed. 

‘1 won’t. You’re simply trying to lure me into staying out 
here and neglecting my duty. 1 really must be off now. You 
have no idea what a lot of work there is to be done.’ 

‘You are entirely spoiling my afternoon.’ 

‘No, Tm not. You’ve got a book. What is it?* 

Psmith picked up the brightly- jacketed volume and glanced 
at it. 

‘ The Alan With The Alisnng Toe. Comrade Threepwood lent 
it to me. He lias a vast store of this type of narrative. I expect 
he will be 'vanting you to catalogue his library next,’ 

‘Well, it looks interesting.’ 

‘Ah, but what does it leach? How Jong do you propose to 
shat yourself up in that evil-smelling library?’ 

‘An hour or so.* 

‘Then 1 sliall rely on your society at the end of that period. 
We might go for another saunter on the lake.’ 

‘All right, ril come and find you when I’ve finished.’ 

Psmith watched her disappear into the house, then seated 
himself once mc^re in the long chair under the cedar. A sense 
of loneliness oppressed him. He gave one look at The Alan 
With The Missing Toe, and, having rejected the entertainment 
it offered, gave himself up to meditation. 

Blandings Castle dozed in the midsummer heat lixe a Palace 
of Sleep. There had been an exodus of its inmates shortly after 
lunch, when Lord Emsworth, l.,ady Constance, Mr Keeble, 
Miss Peavey, and the Efficient Baxter had left for the neigh- 
bouring town of Bridgeford in the big car, with the Hon. 
Freddie puffing in its wake in a natty two-seater. Psmith, who 
had been invited to accompany them, had declined on the plea 
that he wished to write a poem. He felt but a tepid interest 



142 


Leave it to P smith 


in the afternoon’s programme, which was to consist of the un- 
veiling by his lordship of the recently completed memorial to 
the late 1 lartley Reddish, Esq, J.P., for so many years Member 
of Parliament for the Btidgeford and Shiflcy Division of 
Shropshire. Not even the prospect of hearing Lord Emsworth 
- clad, not without vain protest and weak grumbling, m a silk 
hat, m<')rning coat, and bponge-bag trousers - deliver a speech, 
had been siitficient to luie lum from the castle grounds. 

But at the moment when he had uttered his refusal, thereby 
incurring the ili-concealed envy both of Lord Emsworth and 
his son Fieddie, tlie latter also an unwilling celebrant, he had 
supposed that his solitude would be shaicd by Eve. This de- 
plorable conscientiousness of hers, this moibid craving for 
work, had left him at a loose end. Tiie time and the place were 
both above criticism, but, as so often happens in this life of 
ours, he had been let down by the gul. 

But, thviugb he chafed for a wmk, it was not long before chc 
dicainv peace of tne afternoon began to excidsc a soothing 
effect upon him. With the exception of the hues that wtukc I 
wi^h their usual misguided energy among the H(;weis and an 
occasional butterfly wn‘ch flirted past m the sumhine, all 
natuie sccmcvl to be tak.ng a siesta. Som w vie out of sight a 
lawn-mwwer had begun to emphasize the sIjlIIucss witli its 
musical whir, A tclcgraph-boy on a red bicycle passed up the 
drive to the front door, and seemed to have some dflKculry in 
establishing communication with the domes! ic sufl - from 
which Psmith deduced th <t Beach, the butlci, like a good op- 
portunist, was taking advantage of the absence of authority to 
enjoy a nap in some distant lair of Ins own. Eventuallv a pai 
lourmaicl appeared, accepted the telegram and (app K) a 
rebuke from the boy, and the bicycle passed out of sight. Lav- 
ing silence and peace once marc. 

The noblest mmds aie not pr'>of against atmospneue condi- 
tions of this km 1. Psmith’s eyes closed, opened, closed again. 
And presently his regular breathing, varied by an occasional 
snore, was added to the rest of ihe small sounds c the summer 
afternoon. 



P smith Engages a Valet 14 } 

The shadow of the cedar was appreciably longer when he 
awoke with that sudden start which generally terminates sleep 
♦ in a garden-chair, A glance at his watch told him that it was 
close on five o’clock, a fact which was confirmed a moment 
later by the arrival of the parlourmaid who had answered the 
summons of the telegtaph-boy She apj^cared to be the sole 
survivor of the little world that had its centre in the servants’ 
hall. A sort of female Ca'^abianca. 

‘I have put your tea in the hail, sir/ 

‘You could have petformed no nobler or more charitable 
task,’ P^mith assuted hci ; and, havmg corrected a certain stiff- 
ness of limb by means <d massage, went in. It occuircd to lum 
that Eve, assiduous worker though she was, miglit liave 
knocked off in order 10 keep him company. 

The iiopc proved vain A smgk cup stood bleakly on the 
tray. Either Eve was superior 10 the feminine passion for ted 
or she was t ing her'' up iti the library. PilLd ’vifh something 
of the sadness winch he had felt at the sight of tlx toiling bees, 
Psmirh eml)irkcd on his scilitary meal, wondering sorrowfully 
at the pcrver^tness winch made girls work when there was 
no one to waich them. 

It was vciy agicc.'ble here in the coolness of rhe halk The 
great door of the castle was open, and through it he h.d a 
view of lawns bathed in a thitst-pnwolang sunhnht. Through 
the grcen-hai-£.i’ door to ins left, which led to the servants’ 
quartets, an occasional sharp giggle give evidence of the pres- 
ence of humanity, but apart tiom tiui he mudit have been 
alen. in the world. O^ce agun he Eil into a dreamy medita- 
tion, and thcie is little uason to doubt that he would shortly 
have disgraced luinself by falling a^'leop for the second time in 
a single afternoon, when lit was lestfjrcJ to aicitiicss by the 
sudden appearance of a foreign bod} in the open doorway. 
Against the background of golden light a black figure had 
abruptly manifested itself. 

The shaq') pang of apprehension which ran through Psmilh’s 
consciousness like an electric shock, causing him to stiffen 
like some wild creature surprised m the woods, was due to the 



144 


Leave it to V smith 


momentary belief that the ncw-comcr was the local vicar, of 
whose conversational powers he had had experience on the 
second day of his visit. Another glance showed him that he 
had been too pessimistic. This was not the vicar. It was some- 
one whom he had never seen before - a slim and graceful 
young man with a dark, intelligent face, who stood blinking 
in the subdued light of the hall with eyes not yet accustomed 
to the absence of strong sunshine. Greatly relieved, Psmith 
rose and approached him. 

‘ilalloT said the new-comer. ‘I didn’t see you. It’s quite 
dark in here after outside.’ 

‘The light is pleasantly dim,’ agreed Psrmth. 

‘Is Lord Emsworth anywhere about?’ 

‘I fear not. He has legged it, accompanied by the entire 
household, to superintend the unveiling of a mcnioaal at 
Bridgeford to - if my memoiy serves me nghrly - the late 
Hartley Reddish, Esq, J.P., M.P. Is there anything I can 
do?’ ^ 

‘Well, Tve come to stay, you know.’ 

‘Indeed?’ 

‘Lady Constance invifcd me to pay a visit as soon as 1 
leached England.’ 

‘ A.h! Then y(m have come from ftneign parts?’ 

‘Canada.’ 

Psmith started slightly. This, he pcrceivetl, was going to 
complicate matters. The last thing he desired wis the addition 
to the Blandings circle '>f one famihai with Canafla. Nothing 
would militate against his peace of mind more than the society 
of a man who would want to exchange with him views on 
that growing country. 

‘Oh, Canada?’ he said. 

‘I wired,’ proceeded the other, ‘but I :>upposc it came after 
everybody had left. Ah, that must be my telegram on that 
table over there. I walked up from the station.’ He was ram- 
bling idly about the hall after the fashion of or breaking new 
ground. He paused at an occasional table, the cnc where, when 
taking after-dinner coffee. Miss Peavey was wont to sit. He 



P smith Engages a Valet 145 

picked up a book, and uttered a gratified laugh. ^One of my 
little things,’ he said. 

*One of what?’ said Psmith. 

‘ This book. Songs of Squalor. I wrote it.’ 

^You wrote it!* 

‘Yes. My name’s McTodd. Ralston McTodd. I expect you 
have heard them speak of me?’ 

II 

The mind of a man who has undertaken a mission as delicate 
as Psmich’s at Blandiiigs Castle is necessarily alert. Ever since 
he had stepped into the five o’clock train at Paddington, when 
his adventure might have been said formally to have started, 
Psmith had walked warily, like one in a jungle on whom sud- 
den and unexpected things might pounce out at any moment. 
This calm announcement from the slim young man, therefore?, 
though it undoubtedly startled him, did not deprive ium of his 
faculties. On the contrary, it quickened them. His fitst action 
was to step nimbly to the table on which the telegram lay 
awaiting the return of Lord Emsworth, his second waste slip 
the envelope into his pocket. It was imperative that telegrams 
signed McTodd should not lie about loose while he was enjoy- 
ing the hospitality of the castle. 

This done, he confronted the young man. 

‘Come, come!’ he said with quiet severity. 

He was extremely grateful to a kindly Providence which had 
arranged that this interview should take place at a time when 
nobody but himself was in the house. 

‘You say that you are Ralston McTodd, the author of these 
poems ? ’ 

‘Yes I do.’ 

‘Then what,’ said Psmith incisively, ‘is a pale parabola of 
Joy?’ 

‘Et - what?’ said the new-comer in an enfeebled voice. 
Therewas manifest in his demeanour nowa marked nervousness. 

‘And here is another,’ said Psmith. ‘“The Wait a 
minute, I’ll get it soon. Yes. “The sibilant, scented silence that 

F 



146 l^eave it to Psmith 

shimmered where we sat/* Could you oblige me with a diagram 
of that one?’ 

‘1 - 1 - What are you talking about?* 

Psmith stretched out a long arm and patted him almost affec- 
tionately on the shoulder. • 

‘It’s lucky you met me before you had to face the others,’ he 
said. ‘I fear that you undertook this little venture without 
thoroughly equipping yourself. They would have detected 
your imposture in the first minute/ 

‘What do you mean - imposture? I don’t know what you’re 
talking about.’ 

Psmith waggled his forefinger at him reproachfully. 

‘My dear Comrade, 1 may as well tell you at once that the 
genuine McTodd is an old and dear friend of mine. I had a 
long and entertaimng conveisation with him only a few days 
ago. So that, 1 think we may confidently assert, is that. Or am 
I wrong?’ 

‘Oh/hell!’ said the young man. And, flopping bonclessly 
into a chair, he mopped his forehead in undisguised and abject 
collapse. 

Silence reigned for a while. 

‘What,’ inquired the visitor, raising a damp face that shone 
pallidly in the dini light, are you going to do about it?’ 

* Nothing, Comrade - by the way, what is your name ?* 

‘Cootes.’ 

‘Nothing, Comrade Cootes. Nothing whatever. You are 
free to leg it hence whenever you feel disposed. In fact the 
sooner you do so, the better I shall be pleased,’ 

‘ Say ! That’s darned good of you.’ 

‘Not at all, not at all.’ 

‘You’re an ace 

‘Oh, hush! ’interrupted Psmith modestly. ‘But beforeyougo 
tell me one or two things, I take it that your object in coming 
here was to have a pop at Lady Constance’s necklace?* 

‘Yes.* 

‘I thought as much. And what made you su ;pose that the 
real McTodd would not be here when you arrived?* 



'P smith Efjgages a Vaki 147 

'Oh, that was all right. I travelled over with that guy 
McTodd on the boat, and saw a good deal of him when we got 
to I^rondon. He was full of how he’d been invited here, and I 
got it out of him that no one here knew him by sight. And 
then one afternooa I met him in the Strand, all worked up. Mad- 
der than a hornet. Said he’d been insulted and wouldn’t come 
down to this place if they came and begged him on their 
bended knees. I couldn’t make out what it was all about, but 
apparently he had met J^oid Emsworth and hadn’t been treated 
right. He told me he was going straight off to Pans.’ 

‘And did he?’ 

‘Sure, I saw him rff myself at Charing Cross, That’s why it 
seemed such a cinch coming here instead of him. It’s just my 
darned luck that the first man I run into is a friend of his. 
liow was 1 to know that be had any friends this side? He told 
me he’d never been in England before.’ 

‘ In this life Comrade Cootes,’ said Psmith, ‘ we must always 
distinguish between the Unlikely and the Impossible. It was 
unlikely, as you say, that you would meet any friend of 
McTi^xid’s in this out-of-the-way spot; and you rashly ordered 
your movements on the assumption that it was impossible. 
>X'ith what result? The cry goes round the Under vorld, “Poor 
old Cootes has made a bloomer!” ’ 

‘You needn’t lub it in.’ 

‘ I am doing so for youi good. It is m\ earnest hope that 
you will lay this lesson to hcait and profit by it. Who knows 
that it may not be the turning-point in your career? Years 
hence, when you are a white-haired and opulent man of leisure, 
having retired from the crook business with a comfortable 
fortune, you may look back on your experience of to-day and 
realize that it was the means of starting you on the road to 
Success. You will lay stress on it when you are interviewed for 
the Weekly Burglar on “How I Began”. . . . But, talking of 
starting on roads, I think that perhaps it would be as well if 
you now had a dash at the one leading to the railway station. 
The household may be returning at any moment now.’ 

‘That’s right,’ agreed the visitor. 



lueave it to Psmith 


148 

*I think so,’ said Psmith. ‘1 think so. You will be happier 
when you are away from here. Once outside the castle pre- 
cincts, a great weight will roll off your mind. A little fresh air 
will put the roses in your cheeks. You know your way out ?’ 

fie shepherded the young man to the doefef and with a cor- 
dial push started him on his way. Then with long strides he 
ran upstairs to the library to find Eve. 


At about the same moment, on the platform of Market 
Blandings station, Miss Ailcen Peavey was alighting from the 
tram which had left Bridgeford some half an hour earlier. A 
headache, the fruit of standing about in the hot sun, had 
caused her to forego the pleasure of hearing Lord Emsworth 
deliver bis speech: and she had slipped back on a convenient 
train with the intention of lying down and resting. Finding, 
on reaching Market Blandings, that her head was much better, 
and the heat of the afternoon being now over, she started to 
walk to the castle, greatly refreshed by a cool breeze W’hich 
had sprung up from the west. She left the town at almost the 
exact time when the disconsolate Mr Cootes was passing out 
of the big gates at the end of the castle drive. 

Ill 

The gtey melancholy which accompanied Mr Cootes like a 
diligent spectre as he began his walk back to the town of 
Market Blandings, and which not even the delightful evening 
could dispel, was due primarily, of course, to that sickening 
sense of defeat which afflicts a man whose high hopes have 
been wrecked at the very instant when success has seemed in 
sight. Once or twice m the life of every man there falls to his 
lot something which can only be described as a soft snap, and 
It had seemccl to Mr Cootes that this venture of his to Bland- 
ings Castle came into that category. 1 Ic had, like most mem- 
bers of his profession, had his ups and downs m the past, but 
at last, he told himself, the goddess Fortune h id handed him 
something on a plate with watercress round it. Once estab- 



V smith Engages a Valet 149 

lished in the castle, there would have been a hundred oppor- 
tunities of achieving the capture of Lady Constance’s neck- 
lace ; and it had looked as though all he had to do was to walk 
in, announce himself, and be treated as the honoured guest. 
As he slouched tftbodily between the dusty hedges that fringed 
the road to Market Blandings, Edward Cootes tasted the bit- 
terness that only those know whose plans have been upset by 
the hundredth chance. 

But this was not all. In addition to the sadness of frustrated 
hope, he was also experiencing the anguish of troubled mem- 
ories. Not only was the Present torturing him, but the Past had 
come to life and jumped out and bitten him, A sorrow’s crown 
of sorrov/ is remembering happier things, and this was what 
Edward Cootes was doing now. It is at moments like this that 
a man needs a woman’s tender care, and Mr Cootes had lost 
the only woman in whom he could have confided his grief, the 
only woman who would have under^'^tood and sympathized. 

We have been introduced to Mr C(^otes at a point in his 
career when he was practising upon dry land ; but that was not 
his chosen environment. Until a few months back his business 
had lain upon deep waters. The salt scent of the sea was in his 
blood. To put it more exactly, he had been by profession a 
card-sharper on the Atlantic liners; and it was during this 
period that he had loved and lost. For three years and more 
he had worked in perfect harmony with the lady who<fiiough 
she adopted a variety of names for purposes of travel, was 
known to her immediate circle as Smooth Lizzie. He had been 
the piaclitioner, she the decoy, and theirs had been one of 
those ideal business partnerships VT’hich one so seldom meets 
with in a world of cynicism and mistrust. Comradeship had 
1 ipened into something deeper and more sacred, and it was all 
settled between them that when they next touched New York, 
Mr Cookes, if still at liberty, should proceed to the City Hall 
for a marriage-licence ; when they had quarrelled - quarrelled 
irrevocably over one of those trifling points ovemvhich lovers 
do quarrel. Some absurd dispute as to the proper division of 
the quite meagre sum obtained from a cattle millionaire on 



150 Leape if to P smith 

their last voyage had marred their golden dreams. One word 
had led to another. The lady, after woman’s habit, had the last 
of the series, and even Mr Cootes was forced to admit that it 
was a pippin. She had spoken it on the pier at New York, and 
then passed out of his life. And with her had gone all his luck. 
It was as if her going had brought a curse upon him. On the 
very next trip he had had an unfortunate misunderstanding 
with an irritable gentleman from the Middle West, who, 
piqued at what he considered - not unreasonably - the undue 
proportion of kings and aces in the hands which Mr Cootes 
had been dealing himself, expressed his displeasure by biting 
off the first joint of the other’s right index finger - thus putting 
an abrupt end to a brilliant career. For it was on this finger 
that Mr Cootes principally relied for the almost magical effects 
which he was wont to ptoduce with a pack of cards after a 
bttle quiet shuffling. 

With an aching sense of what might have been he thought 
now of his lost Lizzie. Regretfully he admitted to himself that 
she had always been the brains of the firm. A certain manual 
dexterity he had no doubt possessed, but it was ever Lizzie 
who had been responsible for the finer work. If they had still 
been partners, he really behe ved that she could have discovered 
some way of getting round the obstacles which had reared 
themselves now between himself and the necklace of Lady 
Constance Keeble. It was in a humble and contrite spirit that 
Edward Cootes proceeded on his way to Marked" Blandings. 


Miss Peavey, meanwhile, who, it will be lemcmfcered, was 
mot ing slowly along the road from the Market Blaiulings end, 
was finding her walk both restful and enjoyable. There were 
moments, it has to be recorded, when the society of her host- 
ess and her hostess’s relations was something of a strain to 
Miss Peavey; and she was glad to be alone. Her headache had 
disappeareci, and she revelled m the quiet eveni^ i; hush. About 
now, if she had not had the sense to detach h ::rself from the 
castle platoon, she would, she reflected, be listening to Lord 



P smith EfJgages a Valet 1 5 1 

Emsworth’s speech on the subject of the late Hartley Reddish, 
J.P., M.P. : a topic which even the noblest of orators might 
have failed to render really gripping. And what she knew of 
her host gave her little confidence in his powers of oratory. 

Yes, she was well out of it. The gentle breeze played sooth- 
ingly upon her face. Her delicately modelled nostrils drank in 
gratefully the scent from the hedgerows. Somewhere out of 
sight a thrush was singing. And so moved was Miss Peavey 
by the peace and sweetness of it all that she, too, began to sing. 

Had those who enjoyed the privilege of her acquaintance at 
Blandings Castle been informed that Miss Peavey was about 
to sing, they would doubtless have considered themselves on 
firm ground if called upon to make a conjecture as to the type 
of song which she would select. Something quaint, dreamy, a 
little wistful , . . that would have been the universal guess . . . 
some old-world ballad, possibly . . • 

What Miss Peavey actuallv sang - in a soft, meditative voice 
like that of a linnet waking to greet a new dawn - was that 
curious composition known as ‘The Beale Street Blues \ 

As she reached the last line, she broke oflF abruptly. She was, 
she perceived, no longer alone. Down the road towards her, 
walking pensively like one with a secret sorrow, a man was 
approaching; and for an instant, as she turned the corner, 
something in his appearance seemed to catch her by the throat 
and her breath came sharply. 

‘Gec!^ said Miss Peavey. 

She was herself again the next moment. A chance resem- 
blance had misled her. She could not see the man’s face, for his 
head was bent, but how was it possible . . . 

And then, when he was quite close, he raised his head, and 
the cou.^ty of Shropshire, as far as it was visible to her amazed 
eyes, executed a sudden and eccentric dance. Trees bobbed up 
and down, hedgerows shimmied like a Broadway chorus ; and 
from out of the midst of the w^hirling country-side a voice spoke. 

‘Lizr 

* Eddie!* ejaculated Miss Peavey faintly, and sat down in a 
heap on a grassy bank. 



152 


Leave it to P smith 


IV 

‘Well, for goodness* sake!* said Miss Peavey, 

Shropshire had become static once more. She stared at him, 
wide-eyed. 

‘ Can you tie it I * said Miss Peavey. 

She ran her gaze over him once again from head to foot, 
‘Well, if this ain’t the cat’s whiskers I* said Miss Peavey. 
And with this final pronouncement she rose from her bank, 
somewhat restored, and addressed herself to the task of pick- 
ing up old threads. 

‘Wherever,’ she inquired, ‘did you spring from, Ed?* 
There was nothing but affection in her voice. Her gaze was 
that of a mother contemplating her long lost child. The past 
was past and a new era had begun. In the past she had been 
compelled to describe this man as a hunk of cheese and to ex- 
press the opinion that his crookedness was such as to enable 
him to hide at w^ill behind a spiral staircase ; but now, in the 
joy of this unexpected leunion, all these harsh views were for- 
gotten. This was Eddie Cootes, her old side-kick, come back 
to her after many days, and only now was it borne in upon her 
what a gap in her life his going had made. She flung herself 
into his arms with a glad cry. 

Mr Cootes, who had not been expecting this demonstration 
of esteem, staggered a trifle at the impact, but recovered him- 
self sufficiently to return the embrace with something of his 
ancient warmth. He was delighted at this cord-'ality, but also 
sui prised. The memory of the lady’s parting words on the 
occasion of their last meeting was still green, and he had not 
realized how quickly women forget and forgive, and how a 
sensitive girl, stirred by some fancied injury, may address a 
man as a pie-faced plugugly and yet retain in her inmost heart 
all the old love and affection. He kissed Miss Peavey fondly. 
‘Liz,’ he said with fervour, ‘you’re prettier than ever.* 
‘Now you behave,* responded Miss Peavey coyly. 

The arrival of a baaing flock of sheep, escort< d by a priggish 
dog and followed by a couple of the local peasantry, caused an 
intermission in these tender exchanges ; and by the time the 



"P smith Ejigages a Valet 1 5 3 

procession had moved off down the road they were in a more 
suitable frame o^ mind to converse quietly and in a practical 
spirit, to compare notes, and to fill up the blanks. 

^Wherever,' inquired Miss Peavey again, ‘did you spring 
from, Ed? You could of knocked me down with a feather 
when I saw you coming along the road. I couldn^t have be- 
lieved it was you, this far from the ocean. What are you doing 
inland like this? Taking a vacation, or aren’t you working the 
boats any more?* 

‘No, Liz,’ said Mr Cootes sadly. ‘I’ve had to give that up.* 

And he exhibited the hiatus where an important section of 
his finger had been and told his painful tale. His companion’s 
sympathy was balm to his wounded soul. 

‘The risks of the profession, of course,* said Mr Cootes 
moodily, removing the exiiibit in order to place his arm about 
her slender waist. ‘ Still, it’s done me in. 1 tried once or twice, 
but I couldn’t seem to make the ca.-ds behave no more, so I 
quit. Ah, Liz,’ said Mr Cootes with feeling, ‘you can take it 
fron* me that I’ve had no luck since you left me. Regular 
hoodoo there’s been on me. If I’d walked under a ladder on a 
Friday to smash a mirror over the dome of a black cat I 
couldn’t have had it tougher.’ 

‘You poor boyl* 

Ml Cootes nodded sombrely. 

‘ Tough,’ he agreed, ‘ but there it is. Only tliis afternoon my 
jinx gummed the game for me and threw a spanner into the 
piettiest little scenario you ever thought of . . . But let’s not 
talk about my troubles. What are you doing now, Liz?’ 

‘Me? Oh, I’m living near here.* 

Mr Cootes started. 

‘Not married?* he exclaimed in alarm. 

‘No!* cried Miss Peavey with vehemence, and shot a tender 
glance up at his face. ‘And 1 guess you know why, Ed.* 

‘You don’t mean . . . you hadn’t forgotten me?* 

‘As if I could ever forget you, Eddie! There’s only one tin- 
type on my mantelpiece.* 

‘But it struck me ... it sort of occurred to me as a passing 



154 


Leave if to P smith 


thought that, when we saw each other last, you were a mite 
peeved with your Eddie . . .* 

It was the first allusion either of them had made to the past 
unpleasantness, and it caused a faint blush to dye Miss Pea- 
vey’s soft cheek. 

*Oh, shucks I* she said. 'Td forgotten all about that next 
day. I was good and mad at the time. I’ll allow, but if only 
you’d called me up next morning, Ed . . . ’ 

There was a silence, as they mused on what might have been. 

‘What are you doing, living here?* asked Mr Cootes after 
a pregnant pause. ‘Have you retired^* 

‘No, sir. Tm sitting in at a game with real worUnwhile 
stakes. But, darn it,* said Miss Peavey, regretfully, ‘ I’m won- 
dering if It isn’t too big for me to put through alone. Oh, 
Eddie, if only there was some way you and me could work it 
together like in the old days.’ 

‘What is it?* 

‘Diamonds, Eddie. A necklace. I’ve only had one look at it 
so far, but that was enough. Some of the best ice I’ve saw in 
years, Ed. Worth every cent of a hundred thousand berries.’ 

The coinadence drew from Mr Cootes a shaip exclamation. 

‘A necklace!* 

‘Listen, Ed, while I slip y ou the low-down. And, say, if you 
knew the rchcf it was to me talking good United States again! 
Like taking oft a pair of tight :>hocs. I’m domg the high-toned 
stuff for the iroment. Soulful. You remember, hke 1 used to 
pull once or twice in the old days. Just after yem and me had 
that little spat of ours 1 thought I’d take another trip in the 
old Atlantic - foice of habit or something, 1 guess. Anyway, I 
sailed, and we weren’t two days out from New Yoi c when 1 
made the biggest kind of a hit with the dame this necklace 
belongs to. Seemed to take a shine to me iighi away . .* 

‘I don’t blame her!’ murmured Mr Cootes devotedly. 

‘Now don’t yf u interrupt,’ said Miss Peavey, administering 
a gratified slap. ‘Where was I? Oh yes. This e now Lady 
Constance Kccble I’m telling you about ... * 

‘Whatl* 



155 


T? smith Engages a Valet 

^What’s the matter now?’ 

‘Lady Constance Keeble?’ 

‘ That’s the name. She’s Lord Emsworth’s sister, who lives 
at a big place up the road. Blandings Castle it’s called. She 
didn’t seem like she was able to let me out of her sight, and 
IVe been with her off and on ever since we landed. Fm visiting 
at the castle now.’ 

A deep sigh, like the groan of some great spirit in travail, 
forced itself from between Mr Cootes’s lips. 

‘Well, wouldn’t that jar you!’ he demanded of circum- 
ambient >pace. ‘Of all the lucky ones! getting into the place 
hke that, with the band playing and a red carpet laid down 
for you to walk on! Gee, if you fell down a well, Liz, you’d 
come up with the bucket. You’ic a human horseshoe, ihat’s 
what you are. Say, listen. Lcmme-tell-ya-sumf’n. Do you know 
what Vve been doing this afternoon? Only trying to edge into 
the dam’ place myself and getting the air two minutes after I 
was past the front door.’ 

‘VCTiat! Yoiu Ed?’ 

‘Sure. You’re not the only one that’s heard of that collec- 
tion of ice,’ 

‘Oh, Ed!’ Bitter disappointment rang in MiSS Peavey’s 
voice. ‘ If only you could have worked it ! Me and you partners 
again! It hurts to think of it. What was the stuff you pulled to 
get you in?’ 

Mr Cootes so far forgot himself m his agony of spirit as to 
expectorate disgustedly at a passing frog. And even in this 
trivial enterprise failuie dogged him. He missed the frog, 
which withdrew into the grass with a cold look of disapproval. 

‘Me?’ said Mr Cootes. ‘I thought I’d got it smooth, I’d 
chummed up with a fellow who had been invited down to the 
place and had thought it over and decided not to go, so I said 
to myself what’s the matter with going there instead of him. 
A gink called McTcxld this was, a poet, and none of the folks 
had ever set eyes on him, except the old man, who’s too short- 
sighted to see anyone, so . . .’ 

Miss Peavey interrupted. 



Leave if to P smith 


156 

‘You don^t mean to tell me, Ed Cootes, that you thought 
you could get into the castle by pretending to be Ralston 
McTodd?' 

‘ Sure I did. Why not? It didn’t seem like there was anything 
to it. A cinch, that’s what it looked like. And the first guy 1 meet 
in the joint is a mutt who knows this McTodd well. We had a 
couple of words, and I beat it. I know when I’m not wanted.’ 

‘But, Ed! Ed! What do you mean? Ralston McTodd is at 
the castle now, this very moment.’ 

‘How’s that?’ 

‘Sure. Been there coupla days and more. Long, thin bird 
with an eyeglass.’ 

Mr Cootes’s mind was in a whirl. He could make nothing of 
this matter. 

‘Nothing like it! McTodd’s not so darned tall or so thin, if it 
comes to that. And he didn’t wear no eyeglass all the time I was 
with him. This . . . ’ He broke off sharply. ‘ My gosh ! I wonder I ’ 
he cried. ‘ Liz ! How many men are there in the j oint right now ? ’ 

‘Only four besides Lord Emsworth. There’s a big party 
coming down for the County Ball, but that’s all there is at 
present. There’s Lord Emsworth’s son, Freddie . • . ’ 

‘What does he look like?’ 

‘ Sort of a dude with blond hair slicked back. Then there’s 
Mr Keeble. He’s short with a red face.’ 

‘And?’ 

‘And Baxter. He’s Lord Emsworth’s secretary. Wears 
spectacles.’ 

‘And that’s the lot?’ 

‘That’s 4II there is, not counting this here McTodd and the 
help.’ 

Mr Cootes brought his hand down with a resounding report 
on his leg. The mildly pleasant look wluch had been a feature 
of his appearance during his interview with Psmith had van- 
ished now, its place taken by one of an extremely sinister 
malevolence. 

‘And I let him shoo me out as if I was a stray pup!’ he mut- 
tered through clenched teeth. ‘Of all the bunk games!’ 



157 


Psmith Engages a Valet 

* What are you talking about, Ed?* 

^ And I thanked him 1 Thankedhxm ! ’ moaned Edward Cootcs, 
writhing at the memory. ‘1 thanked him for letting me gol* 

‘Eddie Cootes, whatever are you . . .?* 

‘Listen, Liz.’ Mr Cootes mastered his emotion with a strong 
effort. ‘I blew into that joint and met this fellow with the eye- 
glass, and he told me he kne ^ McTodd well and that I wasn’t 
him. And, from what you tell me, this must be the very guy 
that’s passing himself off as McTodd! Don’t you see? This 
baby must ha\ e started working on the same lines I did. Got 
to know McTodd, found he wasn’t coming to the castle, and 
came down instead of him, same as me. Only he got there fiist, 
damn him! Wouldn’t that give you a pain in the neck!’ 

Amazement held Miss Peavey dumb for an instant. Then 
she spoke. 

‘The big stiff!’ said Miss Peavey. 

Mr Cootes, regardless of a lady’s presence, went even fur- 
ther in his censure. 

‘ I had a feeling from the first that there was something not 
on the level about that guy!’ said Mis'N Peavey. ‘Gee! Jrle must 
be after that necklace too.’ 

‘Sure he’s after the necklace,’ said Mr Cootes impatiently. 
‘What did you think he’d come down for? A change of aii ?’ 

‘But, Ed! Say! Arc you going to let him get away with it 

‘Am / going to ‘let him get away with it!’ said Mr Cootes, 
annoyed by the foolish question, ‘\X’akc me up in the night 
and a>k me!’ 

‘But what arc you gv>ing to do?’ 

‘Do!’ said Mr Cootes. ‘Do! I’ll tell you what I’m going 
to . . .’ Tic paused, and the stern resolve that shone in his face 
hcemed .o flicker. ‘Say, what the hell am T going to do?’ he 
went on somewhat weakly. 

‘You won’t get anything by putting the folks wise that he’s 
a fake. That would be the finish of him, but it wouldn’t getyou 
anywhere.’ 

‘No,’ said Mr Coc^tes. 

‘Wail a minute while I think,’ said Miss Peavey. 



l^ave it to ^ smith 


ij8 

There was a pause. Aliss Peavey sat with knit brows. 

‘How could it be . • ventured Mr Cootes, 

‘Cheese it!’ said Miss Peavey. 

Mr Cootes checsed it. The minutes ticked on. 

‘I’ve got it,’ said Miss Peavey. ‘This guy’s ace-high with 
Lady Constance. You’ve got to get him alone right away and 
tell him he’s got to get you invited to the place as a friend of his* 

‘I knew you’d think of something, Liz,’ said Mr Cootes, 
almost humbly. ‘You always were a wonder like that. How 
am I to get him alone?’ 

‘I can fix that. I’ll ask him to come for a stroll with me. He’s 
not what you’d call crazy about me, but he can’t very well 
duck if I keep after him. We’ll go down the drive. You’ll be 
in the bushes ~ I’ll show you the place. Then I’ll send him to 
fetch me a wrap or somf thing, and while I walk on he’ll come 
back past where'you’te liiding, and you jump out at him.’ 

‘Liz,’ said Mr Cootes, lost in admiration, ‘when it comes to 
doping out a scheme, you’re the snake’s eyebrows!’ 

‘But what are you going to do if he just turns you down?’ 

Mr Cootes uttered a bleak laugh, and from the recesses of 
his costume produced a neat little revolver. 

*He won’t turn me down!’ he said. 

V 

‘ Fancy!’ said Miss Peavey. ‘If I had not had a headache and 
come back early, we should never have had this little chat! ’ 

She gazed up at Psmiih in her gentle, wistful way as they 
started together down the broad gravel drive. A timid, soulful 
little thing she looked. 

‘No,’ said Psmith. 

It was not a gushing reply, but he was not feeling at his 
sunniest. The idea that Miss Peavey might return from 
Bridgeford in advance of the main body had not (Kcurred to 
him. As he woula have said himself, he had confused the Un- 
likely with the Impossible. And the result had ‘cn that she 
had caught him beyond hope of retreat as he sat m his garden- 
chair and thought of Eve Halliday, who on their return from 



V smith Efigages a Valet 159 

fhe lake had been seized with a fresh spasm of conscience and 
had gone back to the library to put in another hour’s work 
before dinner. To decline Miss Peavey’s invitation to accom- 
pany her down the drive in order to see if there weie any 
signs of those who had been doing honour to the late 
Hartley Reddish, M.P., had been out of the question. But 
Psmith^^ though he went, went without pleasure. Every 
moment he spent in her society tended ro confirm him more 
and more in the opinion that Miss Peavey was the curse of 
the species. 

* And 1 have been so longing/ continued his companion, ^to 
have a nice, long talk. All these days 1 have felt that I haven’t 
been able to get as near you as 1 should wish.’ 

‘Well, of course, with the others always about . . .* 

‘I meant in a spiritual sense, of couise.’ 

‘I sec.’ 

‘I wanted so much to discuss your wonderful poetry with 
you. You haven’t so much as mentioned your work since you 
came here. Have your’ 

‘Ah, but, you sec, I am trying to keep xuy mind off it.’ 

‘Really? Why?’ 

‘My medical adviser warned me that 1 had been concen- 
trating a trifle too much. He offered me the choice, in fact, 
between a complete rest and the loony-bin.’ 

‘The n^hat. Mi McTodd?’ 

‘The lunatic asylum, he meant. These medical men express 
themselves oddly.’ 

‘ But surely, then, you ought not to dreav: of Hying to com- 
pose if it IS as bad as that? And you told J.ord Ems worth that 
you wislicd to stay at home this afternoon to wute a poem.’ 

fler g’ance showed nothing but tender solicitude, but in- 
wardly Miss Peavey was tclimg herself that that would hold 
him for awhile. 

‘True,’ said Psmith, ‘true. But you know what Art is. An 
inexorable mistress. The inspiration came, and I felt that I 
must take the risk. But it has left me weak, weak.’ 

‘You BIG STIFEI’ said Miss Peavey. But not aloud. 



i6o Leave it to Psmith 

They walked on a few steps. 

‘In fact/ said Psmith, with another inspiration, ‘Fm not 
sure 1 ought not to be going back and resting now/ 

Miss Peavey eyed a clump of bushes some dozen yards far- 
ther down the drive. They were quivering slightly, as though 
they sheltered some alien body; and Miss Peavey, whose tem- 
per was apt to be impatient, registered a resolve to tell Edward 
Cootes that, if he couldn’t hide behind a bush without dancing 
about like a cat on hot bricks, he had betler give up his pro- 
fession and take to selling jellied eels. In which, it may be 
mentioned, she wronged her old friend. He had been as still as 
a statue until a moment before, when a large and excitable 
beetle had fallen down the space between his collar and his 
neck, an experience which might well have tried the subtlest 
woodsman. 

‘Oh, please don’t go in yet,’ said Miss Pca\ey. ‘Tt is such 
a lovely evening. Hark to the music of the breeze in the tree- 
tops. So soothing. Like a far-away harp. I wonder if it is 
whispering secrets to the birds.’ 

Psmith forbore to follow her into this region of specula- 
tion, and they walked past the bushes in silence. 

Some little distance farther on, however. Miss Peavey seemed 
to relent. 

‘You are looking tired, Mr McTodd/ she said anxiously. *I 
am afraid you really have been overtaxing your strength. Per- 
haps after all you had better go back and lie down.’ 

‘You think so?’ 

‘I am sure of it. I will just stroll on to the gates and see if 
the car is in sight.’ 

‘I feci that 1 am deserting you." 

‘Oh, please!’ said Miss Peavey deprecatingly. 

With something of the feelings of a long-sentence convict 
unexpectedly released immediately on his arrival in jail, Psmith 
retraced his steps. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw that 
Miss Peavey had disappeared round a bend in th^* drive; and 
he paused to light a cigarette. He had just thrown away the 
match and was walking on, well content with life, when a 



P smith Engages a Valet i6i 

voice behind him said ‘Hey*/ and the well-remembered form 
of Mr Edward Cootes stepped out of the bushes. 

‘ See this?* said Mr Cootes, exhibiting his revolver. 

‘ I do indeed. Comrade Cootes/ replied Psmith. ‘ And, if it 
is not an untimely question, what is the idea?* 

‘That,* said Mr Cootes, ‘is just in case you try any funny 
business/ And, replacing the weapon in a handy pocket, he 
proceeded to slap vigorously at the icgion between his 
shoulder blades. He also wriggled with not a little animation. 

Psmith watched these manoeuvres gravely. 

‘You did not stop me at the pistol’s point merely to watch 
you go through your Swedish exercises?’ he said- 

Mt Cootes paused for an instant, 

‘Got a beetle or something down my back,* he explained 
curtly. 

‘Ah? Then, as you will naturally wish to be alone in such 
a sad moment, 1 will be bidding ) ou a cordial good evening 
and stiolJing on.’ 

‘No, you don’t!* 

‘Don’t I?* said Psmith resignedly. ‘Pf rhaps you are right, 
pet haps you are right.’ Mi Cootes teplaced the revolver once 
more. ‘I take it, then. Comrade Cootes, that you would have 
speech with me. Carry on, old friend, and get it off your dia- 
phragm, What seems to be on your mind?* 

A lucky blow appeared to have stunned Mr Cootes’^ beetle 
and he was able to give his full attention to the matter in hand. 
He stared at Psmith with considerable distaste, 

‘I’m on to you, Bill!* he said. 

‘My name is not Bill,* said Psmith. 

‘No,’ snapped Mr Cootes, his annoyance by this tune very 
manife.i. ‘And it’s not McTodd.* 

Psmith looked at his companion thoughtfully. This was an 
unforeseen complication, and for the moment he would 
readily have admitted that he saw no way of overcoming it. 
That the other was in no genial frame of mind towards him 
the expression on his face would have "’hewed, even if his 
actions had not been sufficient indication of the fact. Mr Cootes, 



L^ave it to P smith 


i6z 

having disposed of his beetle and being now at leisure to con- 
centrate his whole attention on Psmith, was eyeing that im- 
maculate young man with a dislike which he did not attempt 
to conceal. 

‘Shall we be strolling on?’ suggested Psmith. ^Walking 
may assist thought. At the moment I am free to confess 
that you have opened up a subject which causes me some 
perplexity. I think, Comrade Cootes, having given the position 
of affairs a careful examination, that we may say that the 
next move is with you. What do you propose to do about 
it?’ 

‘I’d like/ said Mr Cootes with asperity, ‘to heat your block 
off.’ 

‘No doubt. But . . 

‘Td like to knock yoi’ for a goal!’ 

Psmith discouraged these Utopian dreams with a depre- 
cating wave of the hand. 

‘I can readily understand it/ he said courteously. ‘But, U) 
keep within the sphere of practical politics, what is the actual 
move which you contemplate? You could expose me, no 
doubt, to my host, but 1 cannot see how that would profit you.’ 

‘I know that. But you can remember JVe got that up my 
sleeve in case you try’^ any funny business.’ 

‘You persist in harping on that possibility. Comrade Cootes. 
The idea seems to be an obsession with yc^u, I can aasuic you 
that I contemplate no such thing. What, to return to the point, 
do you intend to do?’ 

They had reached the broad expanse opposite the front 
door, where the drive, from being a river, spread out into a 
lake of gravel. Psmith stc^pped. 

‘You’ve got to get me into this joint,’ said Mr Cootes. 

‘I feared that that was what you were ab.jui to suggest. In 
my peculiar position I have naturally no choice but to en- 
deavour to carry (,ut your wishes. Any attempt not to do so 
would, I imagine, infallibly strike so keen a crit^. as yourself 
as “funny business”. But how can I get you in^o what you 
breezily describe as ‘this joint” ? ’ 



P smith Engages a Valet 163 

'You can say I’m a friend of yours and ask them to invite 
me.’ 

Psmith shook his head gently. 

‘Not one of your brightest suggestions. Comrade Cootes. 
Tactfully refraining from stressing the point that an instant 
lowering of my prestige would inevitably ensue should it be 
supposed that you were a friend of mine, 1 will merely men- 
tion that, being myself merely a guest in this stately home of 
England, J can hardly go about inviting my chums here for 
indefinite visits. No, we must find another way. . • . You’re 
suie you want to stay? Quite so, quite so, I merely asked. . . . 
Now, let us think.’ 

Through the belt of rhododendrons which jutted out from 
one side of the castle a portly form at this point made itself 
visible, moving high and disposedly in the direction of the 
back premises. It was Beach, the butler, returning from the 
pleasant ramble in which he had indulged himself on the de- 
parture of his employer and the rest of the party. Revived by 
some gracious hours in the open air. Beach was returning to 
duty. And with the ^ight of him there came to Psmith a neat 
solution of the problem confronting him. 

‘Oh, Beach,’ he called. 

‘Sir?’ responded a fruity voice. There was a brief pause 
while the butler navigated into the open. He removed the 
straw hat which he had donned for his excursion, and enfolded 
Psmith in a pop-eyed but nut unkindl> gaze. A thoughtful 
critic of country-house humanity, he had long since decided 
that he approved of Psmith. Since Lady Constance had first 
begun to offer the hospitality of the castle to the literary and 
artistic world, he had been profoundly shocked by some of the 
rare and curious specimens who had nodded their disordered 
locks and flaunted their ill-cut evening clothes at the dinner- 
tabic over which he presided; and Psmith had come as a 
pleasant surprise. 

‘ Sorry to trouble you. Beach.’ 

‘Not at all, sir.’ 

‘ This,’ said Psmith, indicating Mr Cootes, who was viewing 



Leave if to P smith 


164 

the scene with a wary and suspicious eye, an eye obviously 
alert for any signs of funny business, *is my man. My valet, 
you know. He has just arrived from town. I had to leave him 
behind to attend the bedside of a sick aunt. Your aunt was 
better when you came away, Cootes?^ he inquired graciously, 

Mr Cootes correctly interpreted this question as a feeler 
with regard to his views on this new development, and de- 
cided to accept the situation. True, he had hoped to enter the 
castle in a slightly higher capacity than that of a gentleman’s 
personal gentleman, but he was an old campaigner. Once in, 
as he put it to himself with admirable common sense, he 
would be in. 

‘Yes, sir,’ he replied. 

‘Capital,’ saiil Psmith. ‘Capital. Then will you look after 
Cootes, Beach.’ 

‘Very good, sir,’ said the butler in a v’^oice of cordial appro- 
val, The only point he had found tc > cavil at in Psmith had been 
removed; for it had hitherto pained him a little that a gentle- 
man with so nice a taste in clothes as that dignified guest 
should have embarked on a visit to such a place as Blandmgs 
Castle w'lthout a personal attendant. Now all was explained 
and, as far as Beach was concerned, foi given. He proceeded to 
escort Mr Cootes to the rear. They disappeared behind the 
rhododendrons. 

They had hardly gone when a sudden thought came to 
Psmith as he sat once more in the coolness of the hall. He 
pressed the bell. Strange, he reflected, how one overlooked 
these obvious things. That was how generals lost battles. 

‘Sir?’ said Beach, appearing through the green baiz^ door. 

‘Sorry to trouble you again. Beach.’ 

‘Not at all, sir.’ 

‘ J hope you will make Cootes comfortable. I think you will 
like him. His, when you get to know him, is a very winning 
personality.’ 

‘ He seems a nice young fellow, sir.’ 

‘Oh, by the way, Beach. You might ask him r he brought 
my revolver from town with him.’ 



Psmitb Engages a Valet 165 

*Yes, sir/ said Beach, who would have scorned to betray 
emotion if it had been a Lewis gun. 

‘I think 1 saw it sticking out of his pocket. You might bring 
ir to me, will you?* 

‘Very good, sir.* 

Beach retired, to return a moment later. On the silver salver 
which he carried the lethal weapon was duly reposing. 

‘ Your revolver, sir,* said beach. 

‘Thank you,’ said Psmith. 


VI 

For some moments after the butler had withdrawn in his 
stately pigeon-toed way through the green baize door, Psmith 
lay back in his chair with the feeling that something attempted, 
something done, had earned a night’s repose. He was not so 
sanguine as to suppose that he had actually checkmated an ad- 
versary of Ml Cootes’s strenuousness by the simple act of 
removing a revolver from his possession; but there was no 
denying the fact that the feel of the tiling in his pocket engen- 
dered a certain cosy satisfaction. The little he had seen of Mr 
Cootes had been enough to convince him that the other was a 
man who was far better off without an automatic pistol. There 
was an impulsiveness about his character which did not go 
well with the possession of fire arms, 

Psmith’s meditations had taken him thus far when they 
were interrupted by an imperative voice, 

‘Hcyl* 

Onl) one pet son of Psmith’s acquaintance was in the habit 
t)f opening his remarks in this manner. It was consequently no 
surprise to him to find Mr Edward Cootes standing at, his 
elbow. 

‘Hey!’ 

‘All right, Comrade Cootes,’ said Psmith, with a touch of 
austerity, ‘I heard you the first time. And may I remind you 
that this habit of yours of popping out from unexpected 
places and saying “Hey!” is one which should be overcome. 
Valets arc supposed to wait till rung for. At least, I think so. 



i66 


Leave it to V smith 


I must confess that until this moment I have never had a valet/ 

‘And you wouldn't have one now if I could help it/ re- 
sponded Mr Cootes. 

Psmith raised his eyebrows. 

‘ Why/ he inquired, surprised, ^this peevishness ? Don*t you 
like being a valet?' 

‘No, I don’t/ 

‘You astonish me. I should have thought you would have 
gone singing about the house. Have you considered that the 
tenancy of such a position throws you into the constant 
society of Comrade Beach, than whom it would be difficult 
to imagine a more delightful companion?' 

‘Old stiff!' said Mr Cootes sourly. ‘If there’s one thing that 
makes me tired, it’s a guy that talks about his darned stomach 
all the time,' 

‘I beg your pardon?' 

‘The Beach gook,' explained Mr Cootes, ‘has got some- 
thing wrong with the lining of his stomach, and if I hadn't 
made my getaway he'd be talking about it yet/ 

‘If you fail to find entertainment and uplift in first-hand 
information about Comrade Beach's stomach, you must in- 
deed be bard to please. I am to take it, then, that you came 
snorting out here, interrupting my day-dreams, merely in order 
to seek my sympathy?' 

Mr Cootes gazed upon him with a smouldering eye. 

‘ I came to tell you I suppose you think you're darned smart/ 

‘And very nice of you, tr>o,' said Psmith, touched. ‘A pretty 
compliment, for which I am not ungrateful/ 

‘You got that gun away from me mighty smoothly, didn’t 
you ? ' 

‘ Since you mention it, yes/ 

‘ And now I suppose you think you’re going to slip in ahead 
of me and get away with that necklace? Well, say, listen, 
lemme tell you it’ll take someone better than a half-baked 
string-bean like you to put one over on me/ 

‘I seem,’ said Psmith, pained, ‘to detect a ce tain animus 
creeping into your tone. Surely we can be trade rivals without 



P smith Engages a Valet 167 

this spirit of hostility. My attitude towards you is one of kindly 
tolerance/ 

‘Even if you get it, where do you think you’re going to hide 
it? And, believe me, it’ll take some hiding. Say, lemme tell you 
something. I’m your valet, ain’t I? Well, then, 1 can come into 
your room and be tidying up whenever I darn please, can’t I ? 
Sure I can. I’ll tell the woitd I can do just that little thing. 
And yoTi take it from me. Bill . . . ’ 

‘You persist in the delusion that my name is William . . .’ 

‘You take it from me. Bill, that if ever that necklace dis- 
appears and it isn’t me that’s done the disappearing, you’ll 
find me tidying up in a way that’ll make you dizzy. I’ll go 
through tliat room of yours with a fine-tooth comb. So chew 
on that, will you?’ 

And Edward Cootes, moving sombrely across the hall, made a 
sinister exit. The mood of cool reflection was still to come, when 
he would realize that, in his desire to administet what he would 
have described as a hot one, he had acted a little rashly in putting 
his enemy on his guard. All he was thinking now was that his 
brief sketch of the position of affairs wou’d have the effect of 
diminishing Psmith’s complacency a trifle. He had, he flattered 
himself, slipped over something that could be classed as a jolt. 

Nor was he unjustified in this view. The aspect of the matter 
on which he had touched was one that had not previously 
presented itself to Psmith: and, musing on it as he resettled 
himself in his chair, he could see that it aftoideJ food for 
thought. As regarded the disposal of the necklace, should it 
ever come into his possession, he had formed no definite plan. 
He had assumed that he would conceal it somewhere until the 
first excitement of the chase slackened, and it was only now 
that be r^ ilized the difficulty of finding a suitable hiding-place 
outside his bedroom. Yes, it was certainly a matter on which, 
as Mr Cootes had suggested, he would do well to chew. For 
ten minutes, accordingly, he did so. And - it being practically 
impossible to keep a good man down - at the end of that 
period he was rewarded with an idea. He rose from his chair 
and pressed the bell. 



i68 


Leave it to L smith 


*Ah, Beach/ he said affably, as the green baize dopr swung 
open, ‘I must apologize once more for troubling you, I keep 
ringing, don’t I?’ 

* No trouble at all, sir/ responded the butler paternally. ‘ But 
if you were ringing to summon your personal attendant, I fear 
he is not immediately available. He left me somewhat abruptly 
a few moments ago. I was not aware that you would be requir- 
ing his services until the dressing-gong sounded, or I would 
have detained him.’ 

^ Never mind. It was you I wish to see. Beach/ said Psmith, 
‘1 am concerned about you. 1 learn from my man that the 
lining of your stomach is not all it should be.’ 

‘That IS true, sir/ replied Beach, an excited gleam coming 
into his dull eye«:. He shi\cicd slightly, as might a war-horse 
at the sound of the bugle. H do have trouble with the lining 
of my stomach.’ 

‘Every stomach has a silver lining.’ 

‘Sir?’ 

‘ [ said, tell me all about it.’ 

‘ Well, really, sir . . . ’ .said Beach wistfully, 

‘To please me,’ urged Psmith. 

‘Well, sir, it is exticmely kind of you to take an interest. It 
generally starts with a dull shooting pain on the right side of 
the abdomen from twenty minutes to half an hour after the 
conclusion of a meal. The symptoms . . . ’ 

There was nothing but courteous s) mpathy in Psmith’s gaze 
as he listened to what sounded like an eye-witness’s account of 
the San Francisco earthquake, but inwardly he was wishing 
that his companion could see his way to making it a bit briefer 
and snappier. However, all things come to an end. Even the 
weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea. With a moving 
period, the butler finally concluded his narrative. 

‘Parks’ Pcpsininc/ said Psmith promptly. 

‘Sir?’ 

‘That’s what you want. Parks’ Pcpsininc. It w ild set you 
right in no time.’ 

‘I will make a note of the name, sir. The specific has not 



P smith Engages a Valet 169 

come to my notice until now. And, if I may say so,’ added 
Beach, with a glassy but adoring Jook at his benefactor, 
should like to express my gratitude for your kindness.’ 

‘Not at all. Beach, not at all. Oh, Beach,’ he said, as the 
other started to manoeuvre towards the door, ‘ Tve just remem- 
bered. There was something else 1 wanted to talk to you about.’ 

‘Yes, sir?’ 

‘ I thought it might be as well to speak to you about it before 
approaching Lady Constance. The fact is. Beach, I am feeling 
Clamped,’ 

‘Indeed, sir? I forgot to mention that one of the symptoms 
from which I suffer is a sharp cramp.’ 

‘Too bad. But let us, if you do not mind, shelve for the 
moment the subject of your interior organism and its ailments. 
When 1 say 1 am feeling cramped, I mean spiritually. I lave you 
ever written poetry, Beach?’ 

‘No, sir.’ 

‘ Ah ! Then it may be a little difficult for you to understand 
my feelings. My trouble is this. Out in Canada, Beach, 1 grew 
accustomed to doing my work in the mos*- solitary surround- 
ings. You remember that passage in my Songs of Sqmlor which 
begins “Across the pale parabola of Joy •••”?’ 

‘ I fear, sir ... ’ 

‘You missed it? Tough luck. Try to get hold of it some 
time. It’s a bird. \X''ell, that passage \vas written in a loneJy hut 
on the banks of the Saskatchewan, miles away from human 
habitation. I am like that. Beach. 1 need the stimulus of the 
great open spaces. When I am surrounded by my fellows, in- 
spiration slackens and dies. You know how it is when there 
arc people about. Just as you are starting in to write a nifty, 
someone comes and sits down on the desk and begins talking 
about himself. Every time you get going nicely, in barges some 
alien influence and the JSIuse goes blooey. You see what I 
mean?’ 

‘Yes, sir,’ said Beach, gaping slightly. 

‘Well, that is why for a man like me existence in Blandings 
Castle has its drawbacks. I have got to get a place where I can 



1 70 ILeave it to P smith 

be alone. Beach - alone with my dreams and visions. Some 
little eyrie perched on the cliffs of Time. ... In other words, 
do you know of an empty cottage somewhere on the estate 
where I could betake myself when in the mood and swing a 
nib without any possibility of being interrupted?* 

‘A little cottage, sir?* 

‘A little cottage. With honeysuckle over the door, and Old 
Mister Moon climbing up above the trees. A cottage. Beach, 
where I can meditate, where I can turn the key in the door and 
bid the world go by. Now that the castle is going to be full of 
all these people who are coming for the County Ball, it is im- 
perative that 1 wangle such a haven. Otherwise, a considerable 
slab of priceless poetry will be lost to humanity for ever.* 
‘You desire,* said Beach, feeling his way cautiously, ‘a small 
cottage where you can write poetry, sir?* 

‘You follow me like a leopard. Do you know of such a one?* 
‘There is an unoccupied gamekeeper’s cottage in the west 
wood, sir, but it is an extremely humble place.* 

‘Be k never so humble, it will do for me. Do you think Lady 
Constance would be offended if I were to ask for the loan of it 
for a few days?* 

‘I fancy that her ladyship would receive the request with 
equanimity, sir. She is used to . . . She is nut unaccustomed 
. - . Well, I can only say, sir, that there was a literary gentleman 
visiting the castle last summer who expressed a desire to take 
sun-baths in the garden each morning before breakfast. In the 
nood, sir. And, beyond im uucting me to warn the maids, her 
ladyship placed no obstacle in the way of the fulfilment of his 
wishes. So . . .* 

‘ So a modest request like mine isn’t likely to cause heart- 
attack? Admirable! You don’t know what it means to me to 
feel that I shall soon have a little refuge of my own, to which 
I can retreat and be in solitude.* 

‘I can imagine that it must be extremely gratifying, sir,* 
‘Then I will put the motion before the Board ck. ectly Lady 
Constance returns.* 

‘Very good, sir.* 



I^smith Engages a Valet lyi 

*I should like to splash it on the record once more, Beach, 
that I am much obliged to you for your sympathy and advice 
in this matter. I knew you would not fail me.’ 

‘Not at all, sir. I am only too glad to have been able to be 
of assistance.’ 

" Oh, and. Beach , , 

‘Sir?’ 

‘Just one other thing. Will you be seeing Cootes, my vaht, 
again shortly?’ 

‘Quite shortly, sir, I should imagine.’ 

‘Then would you mind just prodding him smartly in the 
lower ribs . . 

‘Sir!* cried Beach, startled out of his butlerian calm. He 
swallowed a little convulsively. For eighteen months and more, 
ever since Lady Constance Keeble had first begun to cast her 
fly and hook over the murky water of the artistic world and 
jerk its denizen^ on to the pile carpets of Blandings Castle, 
Beach had had his fill of ecccntricit}\ But until this moment he 
had hoped that Psnuth was going to prove an agreeable 
change from the stream of literary lunatics which had been 
coming and going all that weary time. And lo! Psmith’s name 
led all the rest. Even the man who had come for a week in 
April and had wanted to eat jam with his fish paled in com- 
parison. 

‘Prod him in the ribs, sir?’ he quavered. 

‘Prod him in the ribs,’ said Psmith firmly. ' And at the same 
time whisper in his ear the word “Aha I’” 

Beach licked his dry lips. 

‘Aha, sir?’ 

‘ Ahal And say it came from me.’ 

‘ Very good, sir. The matter shall be attended to,’ said Beach. 
And with a muffled sound that was half a sigh, half a death- 
rattle, he tottered through the green-baize door. 



CHAPTER 10 


Sensational Occurrence at a ^oetry%^ing 

I 

B reakfast was over, and the guests of Blandings had 
scattered to their morning occupations. Some were writ- 
ing letters, some were in the billiard-room ; some had gone to 
the stables, some to the links : Lady Constance was interview- 
ing the housekeeper. Lord Emsworth harrying head-gardener 
McAllister among the flower-beds : and in the Yew Alley, the 
dappled sunlight falling upon her graceful head. Miss Peavey 
walked pensively up and down. 

She was alone. It is a sad but indisputable fact that in this 
imperfect world Genius is too often condemneil to walk alone 
- if the earthier members of the community see it coining and 
have time to duck. Not one of the horde of visitors who had 
arrived overnight for the County Ball had shown any disposi- 
tion whatever to court Miss Pcavey’s society . 

One regrets this. Except for that slight bias towards dis- 
honesty which led her to steal everything she could lay her 
hands on that was not nailed down, Ailccn Peavey ’s was an 
admirable character ; and, oddly enough, it was the noble side 
of her nature to which these coarse-fibred critics objected. Of 
Miss Peavey, the purloincr of other people’s goods, they knew 
nothing ; the woman they were dc^dging was Miss Peavey, the 
poetess. And it may be mentioned that, however much she 
might unbend in the presence of a congenial friend Lke Mr 
Edward Cootes, she was a perfectly genuine poetess. Those 
six volumes under her name in the British Museum Catalogue 
were her own genuine and unaided work: and, though she 
had been compelled to pay for the production of the first of 
the series, the other five had been brought out ac her pub- 
lisher’s own risk, and had even made a little money. 


172 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Reading 173 

Miss Peavcy, however, was not sorry to be alone : for she 
had that on her rr.^nd which called for solitary thinking. The 
matter engaging her attention was the problem of what on 
earth had happened to Mr Edward Cootes. Two days had 
passed since he had left her to go and force Psmith at the 
pistors pi)int to introduce him inio the castle: and since that 
moment he had vanished completely. Miss Peavey could not 
understand it. 

His non-appearance was all the more galling in that her 
superb brain had just completed in e\ery detail a scheme for 
the seizure of Lady Constance Keeble’s diamond necklace ; and 
to the success of this plot his aid was an indispensable adjunct. 
She was in the position of a general who comes from his tent 
with a plan of battle all mapped out, and finds that his army 
has strolled off somewhere and left him. Little wonder that, as 
she paced the Yew Alky, there was a frown on Miss Peavey 's 
fair forehead. 

The Yew Alley, as I^ord Ems worth had indicated in his ex- 
tremely inteiestmg lecture to Mr Ralston McTodd at the 
Senior Conservative Club, contained among other noteworthy 
features certain yews which rose in solid blocks with rounded 
roof and stemless mushroom finials, the majority possessing 
arched recesses, forming arbors. As Miss Peavey was passing 
one of these, a voice suddenly addressed her. 

‘Hey!^ 

Miss Peavey started violently. 

‘ Anyone about?’ 

A damp face with twigs sticking to it was protruding from a 
near-by yew. It rolled its eyes in an ineffectual effort to see 
round the corner. 

Miss Peavey drew nearer, breathing heavily. The question 
as to the whereabouts of her wandering boy was solved ; but the 
abruptness of his return had caused her to bite her tongue ; and 
joy, as she confronted him, was blended with other emotions. 

‘You dish-faced gazooni!’ she exclaimed heatedly, her voice 
trembling with a sense of ill-usage, ‘ where do you get that stuff, 
hiding in trees, and barking a girl’s head off?’ 



174 


heave it to P smith 


* Sorry, Liz. I . . . ’ 

‘And where/ proceeded Miss Pcavey, ventilating another 
grievance, ‘have you been all this darned time? Gosh-dingit, 
you leave me a coupla days back saying you’re going to stick 
up this bozo that calls himself McTodd with a gat and make 
him get you into the house, and that’s the last I see of you. 
What’s the big idea?’ 

‘It’s all right, Liz. He did get me into the house. I’m his 
valet. That’s why I couldn’t get at you before. The way the 
help has to keep itself to itself in this joint, we might as well 
have been in different counties. If I hadn’t happened to see you 
snooping off by yourself this morning ... * 

Miss Peavey’s keen mind grasped the position of affairs. 

‘All right, all right,’ she interrupted, ever impatient of long 
speeches from others. ‘I understand. Well, this is good, Ed, It 
couldn’t have worked out better. I’ve got a scheme all doped 
out, and now you’re here we can get busy/ 

‘A scheme?’ 

‘A pippin,’ assented Miss Peavey. 

‘ It’ll need to be/ said Mr Cootes, on whom the events of the 
last few days bad caused pessimism to set its seal. ‘I tell you 
that McTodd gook is smooth. He somehow,’ said Mr Cootes 
prudently, for he feared harsh criticisms from his lady-love 
should he reveal the whole truth, ‘he somehow got wise to the 
notion that, as I was his valet, I could go and snoop round in 
his room, where he’d be wanting to hide the stuff if he ever 
got it, and now he’s gone and got them to let him have a kind 
of shack in the woods.’ 

‘H’m!’ said Miss Peavey. ‘Well,’ she resumed after a 
thoughtful pause, ‘I’m not worrying about him. Let him go 
and roost in the woods all he wants to. I’ve got a scheme all 
ready, and it’s gilt-edged. And, unless you ball up your end 
of it, Ed, it can’t fail to drag home the gravy.’ 

‘Am I in it?’ 

‘ You bet you’re in it. I can’t work it without you. That’s 
what’s been making me so darned mad when you didn’t show 
up all this time.’ 



Sensational Occurrence at a Voetry Reading 175 

* Spill it, LLz,’ said Mr Cootes humbly. As always in the 
presence of this dynamic woman, he was suffering from an 
inferiority complex. From the very start of their combined 
activities she had been the brains of the firm, he merely the 
instrument to carry into effect the plans she dictated. 

Miss Peavey glanced swiftly up and down the Yew Alley. 
It was still the same peaceful, lonely spot. She turned to Mr 
Cootes again, and spoke with brisk decision. 

‘Now, listen, Ed, and get this straight, because maybe I 
shan’t have another chance of talking to you.’ 

‘Fm listening,’ said Mr Cootes obsequiously. 

‘ Well, to begin with, now that the house is full. Her Nibs 
is wearing that necklace every night. And you can take it from 
me, Ed, that you want to put on your smoked glasses before 
you look at it. It’vS a lalapaloosa.* 

‘As good as that.^’ 

‘Ask me I You don’t know the half of it.’ 

‘Where does she keep it, Liz? Have you found that out?’ 
asked Mr Cootes, a gleam of optimism playing across his sad 
face for an instant. 

‘No, I haven’t. And I don’t want to. I’ve not got time to 
waste monkeying about with safes and maybe having the whole 
bunch pile on the back of my neck. I believe in getting things 
easy. Well, to-night this bimbo that calls himself McTodd is 
going to give a reading of his poems in the big drawing-room. 
You know where that is?’ 

‘I can find out.’ 

‘And you better had find out,’ said Miss Peavey vehemently. 
‘And before to-night at that. Well, there you are. Do you 
begin to get wise?’ 

Mr Cootes, his head protruding unhappily from the yew 
tree, would have given much to have been able to make the 
demanded claim to wisdom, for he knew of old the store his 
alert partner set upon quickness of intellect. He was com- 
pelled, however, to disturb the branches by shaking his head. 

‘You always were pretty dumb,’ said Miss Peavey with 
scorn, ‘I’ll say that you’ve got good solid qualities, Ed - from 



Leave it to 1? smith 


176 

the neck up. Why, I’m going to sit behind Lady Constance 
while that goof is shooting his fool head off, and Tm going 
to reach out and grab that necklace off of her. See?’ 

*But, Lix’ - Mr Cootes diffidently summoned up courage to 
point out what appeared to him to be a flaw in the scheme - 
‘if you start any strong-arm work in front of everybody like 
the way you say, won’t they . . .?’ 

‘No, they won’t. And I’ll tell you why they won’t. They 
aren’t going to sec me do it, because when 1 d’o it it’s going 
to be good and dark in that room. And it’s going to be dark 
because you’ll be somewheres out at the back of the house, 
wherever they keep the main electric-light works, turning the 
switch as hard as you can go. See? That’s ^'our end of it, and 
pretty soft for you at that. All y^ou have to do is to find out 
where the thing is and what y^ou have to do to it to put out 
all the lights in the joint. I guess I can trust you not to bungle 
that?’ 

‘Liz,’ said Mr Cootes, and there was reverence in his voice, 
‘you can do just that little thing. But what . . .?’ 

‘All right, I know \vhat you’re going to say. What happens 
after that, and h<w do 1 get away with the stuff? Well, the 
window’ll be open, and I’ll just get to it and fling the necklace 
out. See? There’ll be a big fuss going on in the room on ac- 
count of the darkness and all that, and while everybody’s 
cutting up and what-the-helling, you’ll pick up your dogs and 
run round as quick as you can make it and pouch the thing. 
I guess it won’t be hard for you to locate it. The window’s just 
over the terrace, all smooth turf, and it isn’t real dark nights 
now, and you ought to have plenty of time to hunt around 
before they can get the lights going again. . . . Well, what do 
you think of it?’ 

There was a brief silence. 

‘LLt,’ said Mr Cootes at length. 

‘Is it or is it not,’ demanded Miss Pcavey, ‘a ball of fire?' 

‘1.12,’ said Mr Cootes, and his voice was husky with such 
awe as some young officer of Napoleon’s staff might have felt 
on hearing the details of the latest plan of campaign, ‘Liz, I’ve 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Keading 177 

said it before, and I’ll say it again. When it comes to the 
smooth stuff, old girl, you’re the oyster’s eye-tooth!’ 

And, reaching out an arm from the recesses of the yew, he 
took Miss Peavey’s hand in his and gave it a tender squeeze. 
A dreamy look came into the poetess’s fine eyes, and she 
giggled a little. Dumbbell though he was, she loved this man. 

II 

‘Mr Baxter?’' 

Miss Ilalliday?’ 

The Brains of Blandings looked abstractedly up from his 
desk. It was only some half-hour sinc<' luncheon had finished, 
but ahead]/* he was in the library surrounded by large books 
like a sca-beast among rocks. Most of his time was spent in the 
library when the castle was full of guests, ff>r his loft*'^ mind 
was ill-attuned to the frivolous babblings of Society butter- 
flies. 

*l wonder if you could spare me this afternoon?’ said Eve. 

Baxter directed the glare c^f his spectacles upon her inquisi- 
toi iaily. 

‘The whole afternc)on?’ 

‘if you don’t mind. You see, I had a letter by the second 
post from a great friend of mine, saving that she will be in 
Market Blandings this afternoon and asking me to meet her 
there. I must see her, Mr Baxtei, pka^e. You’ve no notion how 
important it is.’ 

Eve’s manner was excited, and her eyes as they met Baxter’s 
sparkled in a fashion that might have disturbed a man made of 
less stern stuff. If it had been the Hon. Freddie Threepwood, 
for instance, who had been gazing into their blue depths, that 
impulsive youth would have tied himself into knots and 
yapped like a dog. Baxter, the superman, felt no urge towards 
any such display. He reviewed her request calmly and judici- 
ally, and decided that it was a reasonable one. 

‘Very well. Miss Halliday.’ 

* Thank you ever so much. I’ll make up for it by working 
twice as hard to-morrow.’ 



Leave if to Ps^ifb 


178 

Eve flitted to the door, pausing there to bestow a grateful 
smile upon him before going out ; and Baxter returned to his 
reading. For a moment he was conscious of a feeling of regret 
that this quite attractive and uniformly respectful girl should 
be the partner in crime of a man of whom he disapproved 
even more than he disapproved of most malefactors. Then he 
crushed down the weak emotion and was himself again. 

Eve trotted downstairs, humming happily to herself. She 
had expected a longer and more strenuous struggle before she 
obtained her order of release, and told herself that, despite a 
maimer which seldom deviated from the forbidding, Baxter 
was really quite nice. In short, it seemed to her that nothing 
could possibly occur to mar the joyfulness of this admirable 
afternoon ; and it was only when a voice hailed her as she was 
going through the hall a few minutes later that she realized 
that she was mistaken. The voice, which trembled throatily, 
was that of the Hon. Freddie ; and her first look at him told 
Eve, an expert diagnostician, that he was going to propose to 
her again. 

‘Well, Freddie?’ said Eve resignedly. 

The Hon, Frederick Threepwood was a young man who 
was used to hearing people say ‘Well, Freddie?’ resignedly 
when he appeared. His father said it ; his Aunt Constance said 
it; all his other aunts and uncles said it. Widely differing per- 
sonalities in every other respect, they all said ‘ W’ell, Freddie?’ 
resignedly directly they caught sight of him. Eve’s words, 
therefore, and the tone in which they were spoken, did not 
damp him as they might have damped another. His only feel- 
ing was one of solemn gladness at the thought that at last he 
had managed to get her alone for half a minute. 

The fact that this was the first time he had been able to get 
her alone since her arrival at the castle had caused Freddie a 
good deal of sorrow. Bad luck was what he attributed it to, 
thereby giving the object of his affections less credit than was 
her due for a masterly policy of evasion. He sidled up, looking 
like a well-dressed sheep. 

‘Going anywhere?’ he inquired. 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Reading 179 

* Yes. Tm going to Market Blandings. Isn’t it a lovely after- 
noon? I suppose you are busy all the time now that the house 
is full? Good-bye/ said Eve. 

*Eh?’ said Freddie, blinking. 

‘ Good-bye. I must be hurrying.’ 

"Where did you say you were going?’ 

‘Market Blandings.’ 

‘I’ll come with you.’ 

‘No, I want to be alone. I’ve got to meet someone there.’ 

‘Come with you as far as the gates,’ said Freddie, the human 
limpet. 

The afternoon sun seemed to Eve to be shining a little less 
brightly as they started down the drive. She was a kind- 
hearted girl, and it irked her to have to be continually acting 
as a black frost in Freddie’s garden of dreams. There appeared, 
however, to be but two ways out of the thing : either she must 
accept him or he must stop proposing. The first of these alter- 
natives she resfilutely declined to consider, and, as far as was 
ascertainable from his actions, Freddie declined just as reso- 
lutely to consider the second. The result was that solitary in- 
terviews between them were seldom wholly free from embar- 
rassing developments. 

They walked for a while in silence. Then : 

‘You’re dashed hard on a fellow/ said Freddie, 

‘How’s your putting coming on?’ asked Eve. 

‘Eh?’ 

‘Your putting. You told me you had so much trouble with 
it.’ 

She was not looking at him, for she had developed a habit 
of not looking at him on these occasions; but she assumed 
that the odd sound which greeted her remr.rk was a hollow, 
mirthless laugh. 

‘My putting!’ 

‘Well, you told me yourself it’s the most important part of 
golf.’ 

‘Golf! Do you think I have time to worry about golf these 
days ? ’ 



i8o 


Leave it to V smith 


‘Oh, how splendid, Freddie! Are you really doing some 
work of some kind? It’s quite time, you know. Think how 
pleased your father will be/ 

‘I say,’ said Freddie, ‘I do think you might marry a chap/ 

‘ I suppose I shall some day,’ said Eve, ‘ if I meet the right 
one/ 

‘No, no! ’ said Freddie despairingly. She was not usually so 
dense as this. He had always looked on her as a dashed clever 
girl. ‘I mean 

Eve sighed. She had hoped to avert the inevitable. 

‘Oh, Freddie!’ she exclaimed, exasperated. She was still 
sorry for him, but she could not help being irritated. It wa«i 
such a splendid afternoon and she had been feeling so happy. 
And now he had spoiled everything. It always took her at 
least half an hour to get ovet the nervous strain of refusing 
his proposals. 

‘I love you, dash it!’ said Freddie. 

‘Well, do stop loving me/ said Eve. ‘I’m an awful girl, 
reJl). I’d make you miserable/ 

‘Happiest man m the world,’ con eel ed Freddie devoutly. 

‘Tve got a frightful temper.’ 

‘You’re an angel.' 

Eve's exasperation increased. She always had a curious fear 
that one of these days, if he wen*^ on proposing, she might say 
‘Yes’ by mistake. She wished tnat there was some way known 
to science of stopping him once and for all. And in her des- 
peration she thought of a line of argument which she had not 
yet employed. 

‘It’s so absurd, Freddie,’ she said. ‘Really, it is. Apart from 
the fact that I don’t want to marry you, how c .n you marry 
anyone - anyone, 1 mean, who hasn’t p enty of money?’ 

‘Wouldn’t dream of marrying for money.’ 

‘Nv>, of course not, but . . .’ 

‘Cupid,’ said Freddie woodcnly, ‘pines a^id sickens in a 
gilded cage.’ 

Eve had not expected to be surprised by anything her com- 
panion might say, it being her expt rience that he possessed a 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poet/y Reading 1 8 1 

vocabulary of about forty-three words and a sum-total of ideas 
that hardly ran into two figure'^; but this poetic remark took 
her back. 

‘Whatr 

Freddie repeated the observation. When it had been flashed 
on the screen as a spoken sub-title in the six-reel wonder film, 
*Love or Mammon" (Beatrice Comely and Brian Fraser), he 
had approved and made a note of it. 

‘Oh! ’ said Eve, and was silent. As Miss Peavey would have 
put it, it held her for a while. ‘What I meant," she went on 
after a moment, ‘was that you can’t possibly marr)'^ a girl with- 
out money unless you’ve some money of your own." 

‘I say, darh it!" A strange note of jubilation had come into 
the wooer’s voice. ‘1 say, is that really all that stands between 
us ? Because . . . ’ 

‘No, it isn’t!’ 

‘ Because, look here, I’m going to have quite a good deal of 
money at any moment. It’s more or less of a secret, you know 
- in fact a pretty deadish secret - so keep it dark, but Uncle Joe 
is going to give me a couple of thousand quid. He promised 
me. Two thousand of the crispest. Absolutely!" 

‘Uncle Joe?" 

‘ You know. Old Kecble. He’s going to give me a couple of 
thousand quid, and then I’m going to buy a partnciship in a 
bookie’s business and simply coin money. Stands to reason, I 
mean. You can’t help making your bally fortune. Look at all 
the mugs who are losing monev all the time at the races. It’s 
the bookies that get the stuff. A pal of mine who wa^ up at 
Oxford with me is in a bookie’s office, and they’re going to let 
me in if I ... " 

The momentous nature of hb' information had caused Eve 
to deviate now from her policy of keeping her eyes off Freddie 
when in emotional vein. And, if she had desired to check his 
lecture on finance, she could have chosen no better method 
than to look at him ; for, meeting her ga 2 c, Freddie immedi- 
ately lost the thread of his discourse and stood yammering. A 
direct hit from Eve’s eyes always affected him in this way. 



i 82 


Leave it to smith 


‘ Mr Kecble is going to give you two thousand pounds I’ 

A wave of mortification swept over Eve. If there was one 
thing on which she prided herself, it was the belief that she was 
a loyal friend, a staunch pal; and now for the first time she 
found herself facing the unpleasant truth that she had been 
neglecting Phyllis Jackson’s interests in the most abominable 
way ever since she had come to Blandings. She had definitely 
promised Phyllis that she would tackle this step-father of hers 
and shame him with burning words into yielding up the three 
thousand pounds which Phyllis needed so desperately for her 
Lincolnshire farm. And what had she done? Nothing. 

Eve was honest to the core, even in her dealings with her- 
self. A less conscientious girl might have argued that she had 
had no opportunity of a private interview with Mr Keeble. 
She scorned to soothe herself with this specious plea. If she 
had given her mind to it she could have brr)ught about a dozen 
private interviews, and she knew it. No. She had allowed the 
pleasant persistence of Psmith to take up her time, and Phyllis 
and her troubles had been thrust into the background. She 
confessed, despising herself, that she had hardly given Phyllis 
a thought. 

And all the while this Mr Kecble had been in a position to 
scatter largess, thousands of pounds of it, to undeserving 
people like Fieddic. Why, a word from her about Phyllis would 
have . . • 

* Two thousand pounds ? ’ she repeated dizzily . ‘ Mr Keeble? ’ 

‘Absolutely!’ cried Freddie radiantly. The first shock of 
looking into her eyes had passed, and he was now revelling in 
that occupathin. 

‘What for?’ 

Freddie’s rapt gaze flickered. Love, he perceived, had nearly 
caused him to be indiscreet. 

‘Oil, 1 don’t know,’ he mumbled. ‘He’s just giving it me, 
you know, don’t you know.’ 

‘ Did you simply go to him and ask him for it?’ 

‘ Well - cr - well, yes. That was about the strength of it* 

‘And he didn’t object?’ 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetrj Reading 185 

*No. He seemed rathet pleased.* 

‘Pleased!* Eve found breatMng difficult. She was feeling 
rather like a man who suddenly discovers that the hole in his 
back yard which he has been passing nonchalantly for months 
is a gold mine. If the operation of extracting money from Mr 
Keeble was not only easy but also agreeable to the victim . . . 
She became aware of a sudden imperative need for Freddie's 
absence. She wanted to think this thing over. 

‘Well, then,’ said Freddie, ‘coming back to it, will you?* 

‘What?’ said Eve, distrait. 

‘Marry me, you know. What I mean to say is, I worship the 
very ground you walk on, and all that sort of rot ... I mean, 
and all that. And now that you realize that I’m going to get 
this couple of thousand . . . and the bookie’s business . . . and 
what not, I mean to say ... ’ 

‘Freddie,’ said Eve tensely, expressing her harassed nerves 
in a voice that came hotly through clenched teeth, ‘go awayl’ 
‘Eh?’ 

‘I don’t want to marry you, and I’m sick of having to keep 
on telling you so. Will you please go away and leave me 
alone?’ She stopped. Her sense of fairness told her that she 
was working off on her hapless suitor venom which should 
have been expended on herself. ‘I’m sorry, Freddie,’ she said, 
softening; ‘1 didn’t mean to be such a beast as that. I know 
you’re awfully fond of me, but really, really 1 can’t marry you. 
You don’t want to marry a girl who doesn’t love you, do you?’ 

‘Yes, I do,’ said Freddie stoutly, ‘If it’s you, I mean. Love 
is a tiny seed that coldness can wither, hut if tended and nur- 
tured in the fostering warmth of an honest heart . . .’ 

‘But, Freddie-’ 

‘Blossoms into a flower,’ concluded Freddie rapidly. ‘What 
I mean to say is, love would come after marriage.’ 

‘Nonsense!’ 

‘Well, that’s the way it happened in “A Society Mating”.’ 

‘Freddie,’ said Eve, ‘I really don’t want to talk any more. 
Will you be a dear and just go away? I’ve got a lot of thinking 
to do.’ 



Leave it to P smith 


184 

‘Oh, thinking?' said Freddie, impressed. ‘Right hoF 
‘ Thank you so much/ 

‘ Oh - er - not at all. Well, pip-pip/ 

‘ Good-bye.' 

‘See you later, what?* 

‘ Of course, of course.* 

‘Fine! Well, toodle-ool* 

And the lion. Freddie, not ill-pleased - for it seemed to him 
that at long last he detected signs of melting in the party of the 
second part - swivelled round on his long legs and started for 
home. 


Ill 

The little town of Market Blandings was a peaceful sight as it 
slept in the sun. For the first time since Freddie had left her. 
Eve became conscious of a certain tranquillity as she entered 
the old grey High Street, which was the centre of the place's 
life and thought. Market Blandings had a comforting air of 
having been exactly the same for centuries. Troubles might 
vex the gencialions it housed, but they did not worry that 
lichened church with its sturdy four-square tower, nor those 
red-roofed shops, nor the age-old inns whose second stories 
bulged so comfortably out over the pavements. As Eve walked 
in slow meditation towards the ‘Ems worth Arms', the in- 
tensely respectable hostelry which was her objective, arch- 
ways met her gaze, opening with a picturesque unexpectedness 
to show heartening glimpses of ancient nooks all cool and 
green. There was about the High Street of Market Blandings 
a suggestion of a slumbering cathedral close. Nothing was 
modern in it except the moving-picture house - and even that 
called itself an Electric Theatre, and was ivy-covered and sur- 
mounted by stone gables. 

On second thoughts, that statement is too sweeping. There 
was one other modern building in the High Street -Jno. Banks, 
Hairdresser, to wit, and Eve was just coming abreast of Mr 
Banks's emporium now. 

In any ordinary surroundings these premises would have 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetrj Reading 185 

been a tolerably attractive sight, but in Market Blandings they 
were almost an eyesore; and Eve, finding herself at the door, 
was jarred out of her reverie as if she had heard a false note in 
a solemn anthem. She was on the point of hurrying past, when 
the door opened and a short, solid figure came out. And at the 
sight of this short, solid figure Eve stopped abruptly. 

It was with the object of getting his grizzled locks clipped 
in preparation for the County Ball that Joseph Keeble had 
come to Mr Banks’^ shop as soon as he had finished lunch. As 
he emerged now into the High Street he was wondering why 
he had pcimitted Mr Banks to finish off the job with a hclio- 
trope-scented hair-wash. It seemed to Mr Keeble that the air 
was heavy with heliotrope, and it came tfy him suddenly that 
heliotrope was a scent wliich he always found particularly 
objectionable. 

Otdinarily Joseph Keeble was accustomed to show an iron 
front to hairdressers who tried to inflict lotions upon him ; and 
the r 'ason his vigilance had relaxed under the mimstrations of 
Jno. Banks was that the second post, which arrived at the 
castle at the luncheon hour, had brought him a plaintive letter 
from his step-daughter Ph^ llis - the second he had had from 
her since the one which had caused him to tackle his masterful 
wife in the smoking-ioom. Immediatcl) after the conclusion 
of his business deal with the Hon. Freddie, he had written to 
Phyllis in a vein of optimism rendered glowing b> Freddie^s 
promises, assuring her that at juiy moment he would be in a 
position to send her the three thousand pounds which she re- 
quired to clinch the purchase of that dream-farm in Lincoln- 
shire. To thi*: she had replied wnth thanks. And after that 
there had been a lapse of days and still he had not made good. 
Phyllis was becoming worried, and said so in six closely- 
written pages. 

Mr Keeble, as he sat in the barber’s chair going over this 
letter in his mind, had groaned in spirit, while Jno. Banks with 
gleaming eyes did practically what he bked with the heliotrope 
bottle. Not for the first time since the formation of their part- 
nership, Joseph Keeble was tormented with doubts as to his 



i86 


Leave it to F smith 


wisdom in entrusting a commission so delicate as the purloin- 
ing of his wife's diamond necklace to one of his nephew 
Freddie's known feebleness of intellect. Here, he told himself 
unhappily, was a job of work which would have tested the 
combined abilities of a syndicate consisting of Qiarles Peace 
and the James Brothers, ^d he had put it in the hands of a 
young man who in all his life had only once shown genuine 
inspiration and initiative - on the occasion when he had parted 
his hair in the middle at a time when all the other members of 
the Bachelors' Club were brushing it straight back. The more 
Mr Keeble thought of Freddie's chances, the slimmer they 
appeared. By the time Jno. Banks had released him from the 
spotted apron he was thoroughly pessimistic, and as he passed 
out of the door, ‘ so perfumed that the winds were love-sick 
with him his estimate of his colleague's abilities was reduced 
to a point where he began to doubt whether the stealing of a 
mere milk-can was not beyond his scope. So deeply immersed 
was he in these gloomy thoughts that Eve had ro call his name 
twice before he came out of them. 

‘Miss Halliday?' he said apologetically. ‘I beg your pardon. 
I was thinking.' 

Eve, though they had hardly exchanged a word since her 
arrival at the castle, had taken a liking to Mr Keeble ; and she 
felt in consequence none of the Cxubarrassment which might 
have handicapped her in the discussion of an extremely deli- 
cate matter with another man. By nature direct and straight- 
forward, she came to the point at once. 

‘Can you spare me a moment or two, Mr Keeble?' she said. 
She glanced at the clock on the church tower and saw that 
she had ample time before her own appointment. ‘I want to 
talk to you about Phyllis.' 

Mr Keeble jerked his head back in astonishment, and the 
world became noisome with heliotrope. It was as if the Voice 
of Conscience had suddenly addressed him. 

‘ Phyllis r he gasped, and the letter crackled in his breast- 
pocket. 

‘Your step-daughter Phyllis.' 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetrj Reading 1 87 

*Do you know her?’ 

‘She was my best friend at school. I had tea with her just 
before I came to the castle.’ 

‘Extraordinary!’ said Mr Keeblc. 

A customer in quest of a shave thrust himself between them 
and went into the shop. They moved away a few paces. 

‘Of course if you say it is none of my business . . . ’ 

‘My dear young lady . . 

‘Well, it is my business, because she’s my friend,’ said Eve 
firmly. ‘Mr Keeble, Phyllis told me she had written to you 
about buying that farm. Why don’t you help her?’ 

The afternoon was warm, but not warm enough to account 
for the mo^stness of Mi Kecblc’s brow. He drew out a 
large handkerchief and mopped his forehead. A hunted look 
was in his eyes. The hand which was not occupied with the 
handkerchief had sought his pocket and was busy rattling 
keys. 

‘I want to help hci. I would do anything in the world to 
help her.’ 

‘Then why don’t you?’ 

‘ I - 1 am curiously situated.’ 

‘ Yes, Phyllis told me something about that. I can see that 
If IS a difficult position for you. But, Mr Ivceble, surety, surety 
if you can manage to give Freddie Threepwood two thousand 
pounds to start a bookmaker’s business . . 

Her w'’ords were cut shoit bv a strangled cry from her com- 
panion. Sheer panic was in his eyes now. and in his heart an 
overwhelming regret that he had ever been fool enough to 
dabble in crime in the company of a mere animated talking- 
machine like his nephew ^leddie. This girl knew! Ard if she 
knew, how many others knew? The young imbecile had prob- 
ably babbled his hideous secret into the ears of every human 
being in the place who would listen to him. 

‘He told you!’ he stammered. ‘He t-told you!’ 

‘Yes. Just now.’ 

‘GooshI’ muttered Mr Keeble brokenly. 

Eve stared at him in surprise. She could not understand 



i88 


Leave it to Psmith 


this emotion. The handkerchief, after a busy session, was 
lowered now, and he was looking at her imploringly. 

*You haven’t told anyone?’ he croaked hoarsely. 

‘Of course not. I said I had only heard of it just now.’ 

‘You wouldn’t tell anyone?’ 

‘Why should I?’ 

Mr Keeble’s breath, which had seemed to him for a moment 
gone for ever, began to return timidly. Relief for a space held 
him dumb. What nonsense, he reflected, these newspapers and 
people talked about the modern girl. It was this very broad' 
mindedness of hers, to which they objected so absurdly, that 
made her a creature of such charm. She might behave in cer- 
tain ways in a fashion that would have shocked her grand- 
mother, but how comforting it was to find her calm and 
unmoved in the contemplation of another’s crime. His heart 
warmed to Eve. 

‘You’re wonderful!’ he said. 

‘ What do you mean?’ 

‘Of coarse,’ argued Mr Keeble, ‘it isn’t really stealing.’ 

‘What!’ 

‘I shall buy my wife another necklace,’ 

‘You will - what?’ 

‘So everything will be all right. Constance will be perfectly 
happy, and Phyllis will have her money, and . . .’ 

Something in Eve’s astonished gaze seemed to smite Mr 
Keeble. 

‘Don’t you knowV he broke off. 

‘Know? Know what?’ 

Mr Keeble perceived that he had wronged Freddie. The 
young ass had been a fool even to mention the money to 
this girl, but he had at least, it seemed, stopped short of dis- 
closing the entire plot. An oyster-like reserve came upon 
him. 

‘Nothing, nothing,’ he said hastily. ‘Forget what I was 
going to say. Well, I must be going, I must be going.’ 

Eve clutched wildly at his retreating sleeve. Unintelligible 
though his words had been, one sentence had come home to 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetrj Reading 189 

her, the one about Phyllis having her money. It was no time 
for half-measures. She grabbed him. 

•Mr Keeble,* she cried urgently. *1 don’t know what you 
mean, but you were just going to say something which sounded 
. . . Mr Keeble, do trust me. I’m Phyllis’s best friend, and if 
you’ve thought out any way of helping her I wish you would 
tell me ... You must tell me. 1 might be able to help . . 

Mr Keeble, as she began her broken speech, had been en- 
deavouring with deprecatory tugs to disengage his coat from 
her grasp. But now he ceased to struggle. Those doubts of 
Freddie’s efficiency, which had troubled him in Jno. Banks’s 
rhair, still lingered. His opinirm that Freddie was but a broken 
reed had not changed. Indeed, it had grown. He looked at Eve. 
He looked at her searchmgly. Into her pleading eyes he di- 
rected a stare that sought to probe her soul, and saw there 
honesty, sympathy, and - better still - intelligence. He might 
have stood and gazed into Freddie’s fishy eyes for weeks with- 
out d’seovering a tithe of such intelligence. His mind was made 
up. This girl was an ally. A girl of dash and vigour. A girl 
wr:jrth a thousand Freddies - not, however, reflected Mr 
Keeble, that that was saying much. He hesitated no longer. 

‘It’s like this,’ said Mt Keeble. 

I V 

The information, authoritatively conv^eyed to him during 
breakfast by Lady Constance, that be was scheduled that night 
to read select passage', from Ralston McTodd’s Songs oj 
Squalor to the entire house-part} assembk d in the big drawing- 
room, had come as a complete ^urpiise to Psmith, and to his 
fellow-guests - such of them as were young and of the soulless 
sex - as a shock from which they found it haid to rally. True, 
they had before now gathered m a vague sort of way that he 
was one of those literary fellows, but so normal and engaging 
had they found his whole manner and appearance that it had 
never occurred to them that he concealed anything up Ins 
sleeve as lethal as Songs of Squalor, Among these members of 
the younger set the consensus of opinion was that it was a bit 



Leave ii to V smith 


190 

thick, and that at such a price even the lavish hospitality of 
Blandings was scarcely worth having. Only those who had 
visited the castle before during the era of her ladyship^s flirta- 
tion with Art could have been described as resigned. These 
stout hearts argued that while this latest blister was probably 
going to be pretty bad, he could hardly be worse than the 
chappie who had lectured on Theosophy last November, and 
must almost of necessity be better than the bird who during 
the Shiffley race-week had attempted in a two-hour discourse 
to convert them to vegetarianism. 

Psmith himself regarded the coming ordeal with equanim- 
ity. He was not one ot those whom the prospect of speaking in 
public afflicts with nervous horror. He liked the sound of his 
own voice, and night, when it came, found him calmly cheer- 
ful. He listened contentedly to the murmur of the drawing- 
room filling up as he strolled on the star-lit terrace, smoking a 
last cigarette before duty called him elsewhere. And when, 
some few yards away, seated on the terrace wall gating out 
into the velvet darkness, he perceived Eve Halliday, his sense 
of well-being became acute. 

All day he had been conscious of a growing desire for 
another of those cosy chats with Eve which had done so much 
to make life agreeable for him du/ing his stay at Blandings. 
Her prejudice - wliich he deplored - in favour of doing a cer- 
tain amount of work to justify her salary, bad kept him during 
the morning away ftf>m the little room ofl* the library where 
she was wont to sit cataloguing books ; and when he had gone 
there after, lunch he had found it empty. As he approached her 
now, he was thinking pleasantly of all those delightful walks, 
those excellent driftmgs on the lake, and those cheery conver- 
sations which had gone to cement his conviction that of all 
possible girls she was the only possible one. It seemed to him 
that in addition to being beautiful she brought out all that was 
best in him of intellect and soul. That is to say, she let him 
talk often ^r and longer than any girl he.had tver known. 

It struck him as a little curious that made no move to 
greet him. She remained apparently una vare of his approach. 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poe/rj Reading 15 1 

And yet the summer night was not of such density as to hide 
him from view -- and, even if she could not see him, she must 
undoubtedly have heard him ; for only a moment before he 
had tripped with some violence over a large flower-pot, one of 
a row of sixteen which Angus McAllister, doubtless for some 
good purpose, had place in the fairway that afternoon. 

* A pleasant night,’ he said, seating himself gracefully beside 
her on the wall. 

She turned her head for a brief instant, and, having turned 
it, looked away again. 

'Yes,’ she said. 

Her manner was not effusive, but Psmith persevered. 

‘The stars,' lie proceeded, indicating them with a kindly yet 
not patronizing wave of the hand. ‘Bright, twinklings and - if 
I may say so - rather neatly arranged. When I was a mere lad, 
someone whose name I cannot recollect taught me which was 
Orion. Also Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. This thoroughly use- 
less chunk of knowledge has, 1 am happy to say, long since 
passed from my mind. However, I am in a position to state 
that the wiggly thing up there a little to the right is King 
Charles’ Wain.’ 

‘Yes?’ 

‘ Yes, indeed, T assure you.’ It struck P mith that Astronomy 
was not gripping h^s audience, so he tried Travel. ‘I hear,’ he 
said, ‘you went to Market Blanding'. tliis afternoon.’ 

‘Yes.’ 

'An attractive settlement.’ 

'Yes/ 

There was a pause. Psmith removed his monocle and pol- 
ished it thoughtfully. The summer night seemed to him to 
have taken on a touch of chill. 

' Wliat I like about the English rural districts,’ he went on, 
‘is that when the authorities have finished building a place 
they stop. Somewhere about the reign of 1 lenry the Eighth, 1 
imagine that the master-mason gave the final house a pat with 
his trowel and said, “Well, boys, that’s Market Blandings.” 
To which his assistants no doubt assented with many a hearty 



Leave it to P smith 


192 

^‘Grammerq^l” and ‘‘Ffackins!” these being expletives to 
which they were much addicted. And they went away and left 
it, and nobody has touched it since. And I, for one, thoroughly 
approve. I think it makes the place soothing. Don’t you?’ 

‘Yes.’ 

As far as the darkness would permit, Psmith subjected Eve 
to an inquiring glance through his monocle. This was a 
strange new mood in which he had found her. Hitherto, 
though she had always endeared herself to him by permitting 
him the major portion of the dialogue, they had usually split 
conversations on at least a seventy-five— twenty-five basis. 
And though it gratified Psmith to be allowed to deliver a 
monologue when talking with most people, he found Eve 
more companionable when in a slightly chattier vein. 

‘Are you coming in to heat me read?’ he asked. 

‘No.’ 

It was a change from ‘Yes,’ but that was the best that could 
be said of it. A gocyd deal of discouragement was always re- 
quired to damp Psmith, but he could not help feeling a slight 
diminution of buoyancy. However, he kept on trying. 

‘You show your usual sterling good sense,’ he said appiov- 
ingly. ‘A scalier method of passing the scented summer night 
could hardly be hit upon.’ He abandv)ncd the topic of the read- 
ing. It did not grip. That was manliest. It lacked appeal. ‘I 
went to Market Blandings this afternoon, too,’ he said. ‘Com- 
rade Baxter informed me that you had gone thither, so I went 
after you. Not being able to find you, 1 turned in for half an 
hour at the local moving-picture palace. They were showing 
Episode Eleven of a serial. It concluded with the heroine, kid- 
napped by Indians, stretched on the sacrificial altar with the 
high-priest making passes at her with a knife. The hero mean- 
while had started to climb a rather nasty precipice on his way 
to the rescue. The final picture was a close-up of his fingers 
slipping slowly off a rock. Episode Twelve next week/ 

Eve looked out into the night without speaking. 

‘I’m afraid it won’t end happily/ sai 1 Psmith with a sigh, 
‘I think he’ll save her.’ 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Reading 155 

Eve turned on him with a menacing abruptness. 

‘Shall I tell you why I went to Market Blandings this after- 
noon?’ she said. 

‘Do/ said Psmith cordially. ‘It is not for me to criticize, but 
as a matter of fact I was rather wondering when you were 
going to begin telling me all about your adventures. I have 
been monopolizing the conversation.’ 

‘I went to meet Cynrhia.’ 

Psmith’s monocle fell out of his eye and swung jerkily on its 
cord. He was not easily disconcerted, but this unexpected piece 
of information, coming on top of her pecuhar manner, un- 
h)ub redly jarred him. He foresaw difficult ics, and once again 
fv^und himself thinking liard thoughts of this confounded 
female who kept bobbing up when least expected. How simple 
life would have been, he mused wfistfully, had Ralston McTodd 
only had the good sense to remain a bachelor. 

‘Oh, Cynthia?’ ne said. 

‘YiwS, Cynthia/ said Eve The inconvenient Mrs McTodd 
possessed a Christian name admirably adapted for being hissed 
l:)etween clenched teeth, and Eve hissed it 111 th^s fashion now. 
It became evident to Psmith that the dear girl was in a condi- 
tion of hardly suppressed fury and tliat trouble was coming his 
way. He braced himself to meet it. 

‘Directly after we had that talk on the lake, the day I 
arrived,’ continued Eve tersely, ‘1 wrote to Cynthia, telling 
her to come here at once and meet me at the “Ems worth 
Aims”...’ 

‘In the High Street/ said Psmith. ‘I know it. Good beer.’ 

‘Whair 

‘ I said they sell good beer • . / 

‘Never mind about the beer,’ cried Eve. 

‘No, no. I merely mentioned it in passing.’ 

* At lunch to-day 1 got a letter from her saying that she would 
be there this afternoon. So 1 hurried off. I wanted - ’ Eve 
laughed a hollow, mirthless laugh of a calibre which even me 
Hon. Freddie Threepwood v/ould have found beyond his 
powers, and he was a specialist - ‘ I wanted to ( ry to bring you 



heave it to 1? smith 


194 

two together, I thought that if I could see her and have a talk 
with her that you might become reconciled/ 

Psmith, though obsessed with a disquieting feeling that he 
was fighting in the last ditch, pulled himself together suffi- 
ciently to pat her hand as it lay beside him on the wall like 
some white and fragile flower. 

‘That was like you/ he murmured. ‘That was an act worthy 
of your great heart. But I fear that the rift between Cynthia 
and myself has reached such dimensions . . .* 

Eve drew her hand away. She swung round, and the battery 
of her indignant gaze raked him furiously. 

‘I saw Cynthia/ she said, ‘and she told me that her husband 
was in Pans/ 

‘Now, how in the world/ said Psmith, struggling bravely 
but with a growing sense that they were coming over the 
plate a bit too fast for him, ‘how in the world did she get an 
idea like that?’ 

‘Do y(')u really want to know?’ 

‘Ido, indeed.’ 

‘Then I’ll toU you. She got the idea because she had had a 
letter from him, begging her to join him there. She had just 
finished telling me this, w'hen 1 caught sight of you from the 
inn window, walking along the High Street. I pointed you out 
to Cynthia, and she said she had never seen you befoie in her 
life/ 

‘Women soon forget,’ sighed Psmith. 

‘The only excuse 1 can find for you/ stormed Eve in a vi- 
brant undertone ’necessitated by the fact that somebody had 
just emerged from the castle door and they no long( r had the 
terrace to themselves, ‘is that you’re mad. When 1 think of all 
you said to me about poor Cynthia on the lake that afternoon, 
when I think of all the sympathy I wasted on you . . 

‘Not wasted,’ correct^ Psmith firmly. ‘It was by no means 
wasted. It made me love you - if possible - even more.’ 

Eve had supposed that she had embarked on a tirade which 
would last until she had worked off hc' indignation and felt 
composed again, but this extraordinary remark scattered the 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Reading 195 

thread of her harangue so hopelessly that all she could do was 
to stare at him in amazed silence. 

* Womanly intuition/ proceeded Psmith gravely, "will have 
told you long ere this that I love you with a fervour which 
with my poor vocabulary 1 cannot hope to express. True, as 
you are about to say, we have known each other bat a short 
time, as time is measured. But what of that?’ 

Eve raised her eyebrows. Her voice was cold and hostile. 

‘After what has happened/ she said, ‘I suppose 1 ought 
not to be surprised at finding you capable of anything, but 
- are you really choosing this moment to - to propose to 
r ic?’ 

‘To employ a favourite word of your own - yes.’ 

‘ A.nd you expect mo to take you seriously?’ 

‘Assuredly not. 1 look upon the piesent disclosure pu'ely 
as a sighting shot. You may regard it, if you will, as a kind of 
foimal proclamation. I wish simplj' to go on record as an 
aspirai.t to )Our hand. 1 wart you, if you will be so good, to 
make a note of my words and give them a thought from time 
to time. As Comrade Cootes- a young fiicnd of mine whom 
you have not yet met - would say, “ Chew on them ’ 

‘I . . 

‘ Ir lb possible,’ continued Psmith, ‘that black moments will 
come to you - for they come to all of us, even the ‘funniest - 
when you will find yourself saving, “Nobexiy loves me!” On 
such occasions I should like you lo add, “No. I am wrong. 
There is somebody wbo loved me.” At first, it may be, that 
rctlection will bring but scant balm. Guidually, however, as 
the days go by and we arc constantly together and my nature 
unfolds itself before you hke the petals of some timid flower 
beneath the rays of the sun . . . ’ 

Eve’s eyes opened wider. She had supposed herself incap- 
able of further astonishment, but she saw that she had been 
mistaken. 

‘You surely aren’t dreaming of staying on here nowV she 
gasped. 

‘Most decidedly. Why not?’ 



'Lsave it to ¥ smith 


196 

‘ But - but what is to prevent me telling everybody that you 
are not Mr McTodd?* 

‘Your sweet, generous nature,’ said Psmith. ‘Your big 
heart. Your angelic forbearance.’ 

‘OhI’ 

‘Considering that I only came here as McTodd - and if you 
had seen him you would realize that he is not a person for 
whom the man of sensibility and refinement would lightly 
allow himself to be mistaken - I say considering that I only 
took on the job of understudy so as to get to the castle and be 
near you, I hardly think that you will be able to bring yourself 
to get me slung out. You must try to understand what hap- 
pened. When Lord Emsworth started chatting with me under 
the impression that I was Comrade McTodd, I encouraged the 
mistake purely with the kindly intention t>f putting him at his 
ease. Even when he informed me that he was expecting me to 
come down tf> Blandings with him on the five o’clock train, it 
never occurred to me to do so. It was only when 1 saw you 
talking to him in the street and he revealed the fact that you 
were about to enjoy his hospitality that I decided that there 
was no other course open to the man of spirit. Consider ! Twice 
that day you had passed out of my life - may I say taking the 
sunshine with you? ~ and I began to fear you might pass out 
of it for ever. So, loath though I was to commit the solecism 
of planting myself in this happy home under false pretences, I 
could see no other way. And here I ami’ 

‘You must be mad ! ’ • 

‘Well, as 1 was “laying, the days will go by, you will have 
ample opportunity of studying my personality, and it is quite 
possible that in due season the love of an honest heart may 
impress you as worth having. I may add that I have loved you 
since the moment when 1 saw you sheltering from the rain 
under that awning in Dover Street, and 1 recall saying as much 
to Comrade Walderwick when he was chatting with me some 
short time later on the subject of his umbrella. 1 do not press 
you for an answer now . • 
should hope not!’ 



Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Reading 197 

•I merely say “Think it over.” It is nothing to cause you 
mental distress. Other men love you. Freddie Threepwood 
loves you Just add me to the list. That is all I ask. Muse on 
me from tune to time. Reflect that 1 may be an acquired taste. 
You probably did not like olives the first time you tasted them. 
Now you probably do. Give me the same chance you would 
an olive. Considei, also, bow little you actually have against 
me. What, mdeed, does it amount to, when you come to ex- 
amine it narrowly? All you have against me is the fact that I 
am not Ralston McTodd. Think how comparatively few 
people are Ralston McTodd. Let your meditations proceed 
al mg these Imcs and . . > 

He broke off, for at this moment the individual who had 
come out of the front door a short while back loomed beside 
them, and the glint of starlight on glass revealed him as ^he 
Efficient Baxter. 

‘ Everybody is waiting, Mr McTodd/ said the Efficient Bax- 
ter. H(. spoke the name, as always, with a certain, sardonic 
emphasis. ♦ 

‘ Of course,’ said Psmith affably, ‘of course. I w’as forgetting. 
I will get to work at once. You are quite sure you do not wish 
to hear a scuttleful of modern poetry. Miss Halliday?’ 

‘ Quite sure.’ 

‘And yet even now, so our genial friend here informs us, a 
bevy of youth and beauty is crowding the drawing-room, agog 
for the treat. Well, wdl! It is these strange clashings of pet- 
sonal taste which constitute what v/t call l^ife. I think 1 will 
write a poem about it some day. Come, Comrade Baxter, let us 
be up and doing. I must not dasappoini my public,* 

For some moments after the two had left her - Baxter silent 
and chilly, Psmith, all debonair chumminess, kneading the 
other’s arm and pointing out as they went objects of interest 
by the wayside - Eve remained on the terrace wall, thinking. 
She was laughing now, but behind her amusement there was 
another feeling, and one that perplexed her. A good many men 
had proposed to her in the course of her career, but none of 
them had ever left her with this odd feeling of exhilaration. 



Leat^e tt to Psmtfh 


Psnuth was diifcrent from any other man who had come her 
way, and diffeience was a quality which Eve esteemed. . . , 

She had just reached the conclusion that hfe for whatever 
girl might eventually decide to risk it in Psmith’s company 
would never be dull, when strange doings m her immediate 
neighbourhood roused her from her meditations. 

The thing happened as she rose from her seat on the wall 
and started to cross the terrace on her wav to the fiont door. 
She had stopped for an instant beneath the huge open window 
of the drawing-room to listen to what was going on inside. 
Famtly, with something of the quality of a far-off phonograph, 
the sound of Psmith reading came to her; and even at th*s dis- 
tance there was a composed blandness about his voice which 
brought a smile to her lips. 

And then, with a startling abruptness, the lighted window 
was dark. And was aware that all the lighted v/indows on 
that side of the castle had suddenly become dark The lamp 
that shone over the great door ceased to slune And above the 
hubbub of \ Dices in the drawing r K)m she hcaid Psmith’s 
patient drawl. 

* Ladies and gentlemen, T think the lights have gone out.’ 

The mght air was rent by a single piercing sertam Some- 
thing flashed like a shooting star and ft 11 at her feei, and, 
stoopmg. Eve found in her hands Lady Ctinstance Keeble’s 
diamond necklace. 


V 

To be prepared is everything in this hfe Ever sinec hci talk 
With Mr Joseph Keeble in the High Street of Market Bind- 
ings that afternoon Eve’s mmd had been flitting nimbly from 
one scheme to another, all designed to end in this very act of 
seizing the necklace in her hands and caeb rendered impractic- 
able by some annoying flaw. And now that Fate in its impul- 
sive way had achieved for her what she had begun to feel she 
could nevt r accomplish for herself, she wasted no time in be- 
wildered inaction. The miracle found he eady for it. 

For an instant she debated with herself the chances of a dash 



Sensational Occurrence at a 'Poetry Reading 195 

thiough the darkened hall up the stairs to her room. But the 
lights might go on again, and she might meet someone. Mem- 
ories of sensational novels read in the past told her that on 
occasions such as this people were detamed and searched. . . * 

Suddenly, as she stood there, she found the way. Close be- 
side her, lying on its side, was the flower pot which Psmith 
had overturned as he came to join her on the terrace wall. It 
might have defects s a cache, but at the moment she could 
perceive none. Most flower pots are alike, but this was a par- 
ticularly easily-remembered flower-pot; for in its journeying 
from the potting shed to the terrace it had acquired on its side 
a splash of white pamt. She would be able to distinguish it 
from Its fellows when, late that night, she crept out to retrieve 
the spoil. And surely nobody would ever thmk of suspect- 
ing • . • 

bhc plunged her fingers into the soft mould, and straight- 
ened herself, breathmg quickly. It was not an ideal piece ot 
work, but It would seive. 

She rubbed hei nngers on the turf, put the flower-pot back 
in the row with the others, and then, like a fl)irig white phan- 
tom, darned across the tciracc and into the house ^nd so with 
beating heart, groping htr wav, to the bathroom to wash her 
hands. 

The twenty-thousand pound flower-pot looked plaadly up 
at the winking stars. 


VI 

It was perhaps two minutes later that Mr Cootes, sprmting 
lustily, rounded the corner ot the housv. and burst on to the 
terrace. Late as usual. 



CHAPTER II 


oAlmost Untirelj jlbout V lower-pots 


T he Efficient Baxter prowled feverishly up and down the 
yielding carpet of the big drawing-room* His eyes 
gleamed behind their spectacles, his dome-like brow was cor- 
rugated. Except for himself, the room was empty. As far as the 
Scene of the disaster was concerned, the tumult and the shout- 
ing had ebed. It was going on vigoiously *in practically ev'ery 
other part of the house, but in the drawing-room there was 
stillness, if not peace. 

Baxter paused, came to a decision, went to the wall and 
pressed the bell. 

‘ Thomas,’ he said when that footman presented himself a 
few moments later* 

‘Sir?’ 

‘ Send Susan to me,’ 

‘Susan, sir?’ 

‘Yes, Susan,’ snapped the Efficient One, who had always a 
short way with the domestic staff. ‘Susan, Susan, Susan, . * * 
The new parlourmaid.’ 

‘Oh, yes, sir. Very good, sir,’ 

Thomas withdrew, outwardly, all grave respectfulness, in- 
wardly piqued, as was his wont, at the airy manner in which 
the secretary flung his orders about at the castle. The domestic 
staff at Blandings lived in a perpetual state of smouldering 
discontent under Baxter’s rule. 

‘Susan,’ said Thomas when he arrived in the lower regions, 
^you’re to go up to the drawing-room. Nosey Parket wants 
you.* 

The pleasant-faced young woman wh‘ >! a he addressed laid 
down her knitting. 


200 



Almost Entirely About Flomr-pots ' zot 

'Who?* she asked, 

'Mister Blooming Baxter. When you’ve been here a little 
longer you’ll know that he’s the feller that owns the place. How 
he got it I don’t know. Found it,’ said Thomas satirically, *in 
his Christmas stocking, I expect. Anyhow, you’re to go up.’ 

Thomas’s fellow-footman, Stokes, a serious-looking man 
with a bald forehead, shook that forehead solemnly. 

‘Something’s the matter,’ he asserted. ‘You can’t tell me 
that wasn’t a scream wc heard when them lights was out. Or,’ 
he added weightily, for he was a man who looked at every side 
of a question, ‘a shriek. It was a shriek or scream. I said so at 
the time. “There,” I said, “ listen 1” I said. “That’s somebody 
screaming,” 1 said. “Or shrieking.” Something’s up.’ 

‘Well, Baxter hasn’t been murdered, worse luck,’ said 
Thomas. ‘He’s up there screaming or shrieking for Susan. 
“Send Susan to me!’” proceeded Thomas, giving an always 
popular imitation. “‘Susan, Susan, Susan.” So you’d best go, 
my gill, and see what he wants.’ 

‘Very well.’ 

‘And, Susan,’ said Thomas, a tender note creeping into his 
voice, for already, brief as had been her sojourn at Blandings, 
he had found the new parlourmaid making a deep impression 
on him, ‘if it’s a row of any kind . . .’ 

‘Or description,’ interjected Stokes. 

‘Or description,’ continued Thomas, accepting the word, 
‘if ’e’s ’arsh with you for some reason or other, you come 
right back to me and sob out your troubles on my chest, see? 
Lay your little ’ead on my shoulder and tell me all about it.’ 

The new parlourmaid, primly declining to reply to this al- 
luring invitation, started on her journey upstairs ; and Thomas, 
with a not unmanly sigh, resumed his interrupted game of half- 
penny nap with colleague Stokes, 


The Efficient Baxter had gone to the open window and was 
gazing out into the night when Susan entered the drawing-room, 
‘You wished to see me, Mr Baxter?’ 



202 


Leave it to Psmith 


The secretarjr spun round* So softly had she opened the 
door, and so noiselessly had she moved when inside the room, 
that it was not until she spoke that he had become aware of her 
arrival. It was a characteristic of this girl Susan that she was 
always apt to be among those present some time before the 
latter became cognizant of the fact. 

‘ Oh, good evening. Miss Simmons. You came in very quietly.* 

* Habit,* said the parlourmaid. 

* You gave me quite a start.* 

‘Tm sorry. Wlut was it,* she asked, dismissing in a posi- 
tively unfeeling manner the subject of her companion’s jarred 
nerves, ^that you wished to see me about?* 

‘Shut that door.* 

‘1 have. I always shut doors.* 

‘Please sit down.* 

‘No, thank you, Mr Baxter. It might look odd if anyone 
should come m.* 

‘Of course. You think of everything.* 

‘I always do.* 

Baxter stood for a moment, frowning. 

‘Miss Simmons,* he said, ‘when I thought it expedient to 
instal a private detective in this house, I insisted on Wragge’s 
fiending you. We had worked together before . . 

‘Sixteenth of December, 1918, to January twelve, 1919, 
when you were secretary to Mr Horace Jevons, the American 
millionaire,’ said Miss Simmons as promptly as if he had touched 
a spring. It was her hobby to remember dates with precision. 

‘Exactly. I insisted upon your being sent because 1 knew 
ftom experience that you were reliable. At that time I ’ooked 
on your presence here merely as a precautionary measure. 
Now, I am sorry to say . . .* 

‘Did someone steal Lady Constance’s necklace to-night?* 

‘YesI* 

‘When the lights went out just now?* 

‘Exactly.* 

‘Well, why couldn*t you say so at oai.e? Good gracious, 
man, you don’t have to break the thing gently to me.’ 



Almost Entirely About Flower-pots 203 

The Efficient Baxter, though he strongly objected to being 
addressed as *man/ decided to overlook the solecism. 

‘ The lights suddenly went out,’ he said. ^ There was a certain 
amount of laughter and confusion. Then a piercing shriek . . /j 

‘I heard it.’ 

‘And immediately after Lady Constance’s voice crying that 
hpr jewels had been snatched from her neck.’ 

‘Then what happened?’ 

‘Still greater confusion, which lasted until one of the maids 
arrived with a candle. Eventually the lights went on again, but 
of the necklace there was no sign whatever.’ 

‘Well? Were you expecting the thief to wear it as a watch- 
chain or hang it from his teeth?’ 

Baxter was finding his companion’s manner more trying 
every minute, but he preserved his calm. 

‘ Naturally the doors were barred and a complete search in- 
stituted. And extremely embarrassing it was. With the single 
exception of the scoundrel who has been palming himself off 
as McTodd, all those present were well-known members of 
Society.’ 

‘Well-known members of Society might not object to get- 
ting hold of a twenty-thousand pound necklace. But still, with 
the McTodd fellow there, you oughtn’t to have had far to look. 
What had he to say about it?’ 

‘He was among the first to empty his pockets.’ 

‘ Well, then, he must have hidden the thing somewhere.’ 

‘ Not in this room. I have searched assiduously.’ 

‘H’m.’ 

There was a silence. 

‘It is baffling,’ said Baxter, ‘baffling.’ 

‘It is nothing of the kind,’ replied Miss Simmons tartly, 
‘This wasn’t a one-man job. How could it have been? I should 
be inclined to call it a three-man job. One to switch off the 
lights, one to snatch the necklace, and one to - was that win- 
dow open all the time? 1 thought so — and one to pick up the 
necklace when the second fellow threw it out on to the terrace. 

‘Terrace I’ 



204 


L>eape if to P smith 


The word shot from Baxter’s lips with explosive force. Miss 
Simmons looked at him curiously. 

‘Thought of something?' 

‘ Miss Simmons/ said the Efficient One impressively, * every- 
body was assembled in here waiting for the reading to begin, but 
the pseudo-McTodd was nowhere to be found. I discovered him 
eventually on the terrace in close talk with the Halliday girl.’ 

‘ His partner/ said Miss Simmons, nodding. ‘ We thought so 
all along. And let me add my little bit. There’s a fellow down 
in the servants’ hall that calls himself a valet, and Fll bet he 
didn’t know what a valet was till he came here. I thought he was 
a crook the moment I set eyes on him. I can tell ’em in the dark. 
Now, do you know whose valet he is ? This McTodd fellow’s I ’ 

Baxter bounded to and fro like a caged tiger. 

‘And with my own ears,’ he cried excitedly, ‘I heard the 
Halliday girl refuse to come to the drawing-room to listen to 
the reading. She was out on the texrace throughout th<^ whole 
affair. Miss Simmons, we must actl We must actl’ 

‘Yes, but not like idiots,’ replied the detective frostily. 

‘What do you mean?’ 

‘Well, you can’t charge out, as you looked as if you wanted 
to just then, and denounce these crook*? where they sit. We’ve 
got to go carefully.’ 

‘But meanwhile they will smuggle the neckj^ce away!’ 

‘They won’t smuggle any necklace away, not while I’m 
around. Suspicion’s no good. Wc’vc made out a nice little case 
against the three of them, but it’s no use unless we catch them 
with the goods. The first thing we have to do is to find out 
where they’ve hidden the stuff. And that’ll take patiem t I’ll 
start by searching that girl’s room. Then I’ll search the valet 
fellow’s room. And if the stuff isn’t there it’ll mean they’ve 
hidden it out ia the open somewhere,’ 

‘But this McTodd fellow. This fellow who poses as Mc- 
Todd. He may have it all the while,’ 

‘No. I’ll search bis room, too, but the stuff won’t be there. 
He’s the fellow who’s going to get it in th Jnd, because he’s 
got that place out in the woods to bide it in. But they wouldn’t 



Almost Entirely About Pl^er-pots 205 

have had time to slip it to him yet. That necklace is somewhere 
right here. And if, said Miss Simmons with grim facetious ness, 
‘ they can hide it from me, they may keep it as a birthday present/ 

IT 

How wonderful, if we pause to examine it, is Nature’s inexor- 
able law of compensation. Instead of wasting time in envy of 
out mental superiors, ^/e would do well to' reflect that these 
gifts of theirs which excite our wistful jealousy are ever at- 
tended by corresponding penalties. To take an example that 
lies to hand, jt was the very fact that he possessed a brain like 
a buzz-saw that rendered the Rfiicicnt Baxter a bad sleeper. 
Just as he would be dropping off, bing! would go that brain 
of his, melting the mists of sleep like snow in a furnace. 

This was so even when life was running calmly for him and 
without excitement. To-night, his mind, bearing the load it 
did, hrmly declined even to consider the question of slumber. 
The hour of two, chiming from the clock over the stables, 
found him as wide awake as ever he was at high noon. 

Lying in bed in the darkness, he reviewed the situation as 
far as he had the data. Shortly before he retired. Miss Sim- 
mons had made her report about the bedrooms. Though sub- 
jected to the severest scrutiny, neither Psnuch’s boudoir nor 
Cootes’s attic nc^ Eve’s iittle nook on the third floor had yielded 
up treasure of any'description. And this. Miss Simmons held, 
confirmed her original view that the necklace must be lying 
concealed in what might almc»st be called a public spot - on 
some window-ledge, maybe, or somewhere in the hall. . . . 

Baxter lay considering this thcoi}. It did appear to be the 
only tenable one; but it ofl'ended him by giving the search a 
frivolous suggestion of being some sort of refund game like 
Hunt tfie Slipper or Find the Thimljlc. As a child he had held 
austerely aloof from these silly pastimes, and he resented being 
compelled to play tliem now. Still . . . 

He sat up thinking. He had heard a noise. 



2 o 6 Leave i/ to P smith 

The attitude of the majority of people towards noises in the 
night is one of cautious non-interference. But Rupert Baxter 
was made of sterner stuff. The sound had seemed to come from 
downstairs somewhere ~ perhaps from that very hall where, 
according to Miss Simmons, the stolen necklace might even 
now be lying hid. Whatever it was, it must certainly not be 
ignored, fie reached for the spectacles which lay ever ready to 
his hand on the table beside him : then climbed out of bed, 
and, having put on a pair of slippers and opened the door, 
crept forth into the darkness. As far as he could ascertain by 
holding his breath and straining his ears, all was still from 
cellar to roof ; but nevertheless he was not satisfied. He con- 
tinued to listen. His room was on the second floor, one of a 
series that ran along a balcony overlooking the hall ; and he 
stood, leaning over the balcony rail, a silent statue of Vigilance. 


The noise which had acted so electrically upon the Efficient 
Baxter had been a particularly noisy noise; and only the inter- 
vening distance and the fact that his door was closed had pre- 
vented it sounding to him like an explosion. 1 1 had been caused 
by the crashing downfall of a small table ccuitaining a vase, a 
jar of potpourri, an Indian sandalwood box of curious work- 
manship, and a cabinet- si^e phfjlograph of the Earl of Ems- 
worth’s eldest son. Lord Bosham; and the table had fallen 
because Eve, en route across the hall in quest of her precious 
flower-pot, had collided with it while making for the front 
door. Of all indo(>’ sports - and Eve, as she stood pallidly 
among the ruins, would have been the first to endor^^e this 
dictum - the one which oflers the minimum of pleasure to the 
participant is that of roaming in pitch darkness through the 
hall of a country-house. Easily navigable in the daytime, these 
places become at night mere traps for the unwary. 

Eve paused breathlessly. So terrific had the noise sounded 
to her guilty ears that every moment she was expecting doors 
to open all over the castle, belching forth homing men with 
pistols. But as nothing happenedT^courage returned to her. 



207 


Almost Entirely About Flower-pots 

and she resumed her journey. She found the great door, ran 
her fingers along its surface, and drew the chain. The shooting 
back of the bolts occupied but another instant, and then she 
was out on the terrace running her hardest towards the row 
of flower-pots. > 

Up on his balcony, meanwhile, the Eflicient Baxter was 
stopping, looking, and listening. The looking brought no 
results, for all below was black as pitch; but the listening 
proved more fruitful. Faintly from down in the uell of the 
hall there floated up to him a peculiar sound like something 
rustling in the darkness. Had he reached the balcony a moment 
earlier, he would have heard the rattle of the chain and the click 
of the bolts ; but these noises had occurred just before he came 
out of his room. Now all that was audible was this ru.^tling. 

He could not analyse the srjund, but the fact that there was 
any sound at all in such a place at such an hour increased his 
suspicions that dark doings were toward which would pay 
for investigation. With stealtny steps he crept to the head of 
the stairs and descended. 

One uses the verb ‘descend* advisedly, for what is required 
is some word suggesrmg instantaneous activity. About Bax- 
ter’s progress from the second floor to the first there was 
nothing halting or hesitating. He, so to speak, did it now. 
Planting his foot firmly on a golf-ball which the Hon. Freddie 
Threepwood, who had been practising putting in the corndor 
before retiring to bed, had left in his casual fashic n just where 
the steps began, he took the entire staircase in one majestic, 
volplaning sweep. There were eleven stairs in all separating 
his landing from the landing below, and llic only ones he hit 
were the third and tenth. He came to rest with a squattering 
thud on the lower landing, and for a moment or two the 
f ver of the chase left him. 

The fact that man} writers in their time ha^e commented 
at some length on the mysterious manner in which Fate is apt 
to perform its work must not deter us now from a brief survey 
of this latest manifestation of its ingenious methods. Had not 
liis interview with Eve that afterno' )n so stimulated the Hon. 



208 


Leave it to V smith 


Freddie as to revive in him a faint yet definite desire to putt, 
there would have been no golf-ball waiting for Baxter on the 
stairs. And had he been permitted to negotiate the stairs in a 
less impetuous nianner, Baxter would not at this juncture have 
switched on the light. 

It had not been his original intention to illuminate the 
theatre of action, but after that Lucifer-like descent from the 
second floor to the first he was taking no more chances. 
‘Safety First’ was Baxter’s slogan. As soon, therefore, as he 
had shaken off a dazed sensation of mental and moral collapse, 
akin to that w'hich comes to the man who steps on the teeth of 
a rake and is smitten on the forehead by the handle, he rose 
with infinite caution to his feet and, feeling his way dowm by 
the banisters, groped for the switch and pressed it. And so it 
came about that Eve, heading for home with her precious 
flower* pot in her arms, was stopped when at the \ ery door by 
a sudden warning flood of light. Another instant, and she 
would have been across the threshold of disaster. 

For a moment paralysis gripped her. The light had affected 
her like someone shouting loudly and unexpectedly in her ear. 
Her heart gave one convulsive bound, and she stood frozen. 
Then, filled with a blind desire for flight, she dashed like a 
hunted rabbit into the friendly shelter of a clump of ' bushes. 


Baxter stood blinking. Gradually his eyes adjusted them- 
selves to the light, and immediately they had done so he was 
seized by a fresh frenzy of zeal. Now that all things were made 
visible to him he could see that that faint rustling sound had 
been caused by a curtain flapping in the bret^e, and jthat the 
breeze which made the curtain flap was coming in through the 
open front door. 

Baxter wasted no time in abstract thought. He acted swiftly 
and with decision. Straightening his spectacles on his nose, he 
girded up his pyjamas and galloped out into the night. 



Almost Entirely About Flower-pots 209 

The smooth terrace slept under the stars. To a more poetic 
man than Baxter it would have seemed to wear that faintly re- 
proachful air which a garden always assumes when invaded at 
unseemly hours by people who ought to be in bed. Baxter, 
never fanciful, was blind to this. lie was thinking, thinking. 
That shaking-up on the stairs had churned into activity the 
very depths of his brain and he was at the fever-point of his 
reasoning powers. A thought had come like a full-blown rose, 
flushing his brow. Miss Simmons, arguing plausibly, had sug- 
gested that the stolen necklace might be concealed in the hall. 
Baxter, inspired, fancied not. Whoever it was that had been 
at work in the hall just now had been making for the garden. 
It was not the desire to escape which had led him - or her - to 
open the front door, for the opening had been done before he, 
Baxter, had come out on to the balcony - otherwise he muse 
have heard the shooting of the bolts. No. The enemy’s objec- 
tive had been the garden. In other words, the terrace. And why ? 
Because somewhere on the ter i ace was the stolen necklace. 

Standing there in the starlight, the Efficient Baxter en- 
deavoured to reconstruct the scene, and did so with remarkable 
accuracy, lie saw the jewels flashing down. He saw them 
picked up. But there he stopped. Try as he might, he could not 
see them liiddcn. And yet that they had been hidden - and that 
within a few feet of where he was now standing - he f It con- 
vinced. 

He moved from his position near the door and began to 
roam restlessly, flis slippered feet padded over the soft turf. 


Eve peered out ftoni her clump bushes. It was not easy to 
see any great distance, but Fate, her friend, was ''till with her. 
There had been a moment that night when Baxter, disrobing 
for bed, had wavered absently between his brown and his 
lemon-coloured pyjamas, little recking of what hung upon the 
choice. Fate had directed his hand to the lemon-coloured, and 
he had put them on; vdth the result that he shone now in the 
dim light like the white plume of Navarre. Eve could follow 

H 



210 


Leave it to P smith 


his movements perfectly, and, when he was far enough away 
from his base to make the enterprise prudent, she shppcd out 
and raced for home and safety. Baxter at the moment was lean- 
mg on the terrace wall, thmking, thinking, thmkmg. 


It was possibly the cool air, playing about his bare ankles, 
that at last chilled the secretary’s dashing mood and brought 
the disquieting thought that he was doing something dis- 
tinctly dangerous in remaimng out here m the open like this. 
A gang of thieves are ugly customers, likely to stick at little 
when a valuable necklace is at stake, and it came to the Effi- 
cient Baxter that in his hght pyjamas he must be offering a 
tempting mark for any marauder lurking - say in those bushes. 
And at the thought, the summer night, though pleasantly mild, 
grew suddenly chillv. With an almost convulsive rapidity he 
turned to re-enter the house. Zeal was well enc)ugh, but it was 
silly to be rash. He covered the last few yards of his journey 
at a rare burst of speed 

It was at this point that he discovered that the lights in the 
hall had been switched off and that the front dooi was closed 
and bolted. 

Ill 

It is the opinion of most thoughtful students of life that happi- 
ness in this world depends chiefly on the ability to take things 
as they come An instance of one who may be said to have per- 
fected this attitude is to be found m the writings ot a certain 
emment Arabian auth n who tells (ff a traveller who sinking 
to sleep one afternoon upon a patch of turf con^ning an 
acorn, discovered when he woke that the warmth df his body 
had caused the acorn to germinate and that he was now some 
sixty feet above the ground in the upper branches of a massive 
oak. Unable to descend, he faced the situation equably. can- 
not,’ he observed, * adapt circumstances to my will: therefore 
I shall adapt my will to circumstances. I iU adc to remain here/ 
Which he did* 



Almost Entirely About E lower- pots 2 n 

Rupert Baxter, as he stood before the barred door of Bland- 
ings Castle, was very far from imitating this admirable philoso- 
pher. To find oneself locked out of a country-house at half- 
past two in the morning in lemon-coloured pyjamas can never 
be an unmixedly agreeable experience, and Baxter was a man 
less fitted by nature to endure it with equanimity than most 
men. His was a fiery and an arrogant soul, and he seethed in 
furious rebellion against the intolerable position into which 
Fate had manoeuvred him. He even went so far as to give the 
front door a petulant kick. Finding, however, that this hurt his 
toes and accomplished no useful end, he addressed himself to 
the task of ascertaining whether there was any way of getting 
in - short of banging the knocker and rousing the house, a line 
of action which did not commend itself to him. kle made a 
practice of avoiding as far as possible the ribald type of young 
man of which the castle was now full, and he had no desire to 
meet them at this hour in his present costume. He left the front 
door and proceeded to make a circuit of the castle walls ; and 
his spirits sank even lower. In the Middle Ages, during that 
stormy period of England’s history when walls were built six 
feet thick and a window was not so much a window as a handy 
place pouring molten lead on the heads of visitors, Bland- 
ings had been an impregnable fortress. But in all its career it 
can seldom have k*okcd more of a fortress to anyone than it 
did now to the Efficient Baxter. 

One of the disadvantages of being a man of action, imper- 
vious to the softer emotions, is that in moments of trial the 
Beauties of Nature are powerless to soothe the anguished heart. 
Had Baxter been of a dreamy and poetic temperament he might 
no>v have been drawing all sorts of balm from the loveliness of 
his surroundings. The air was full of the scent of growing 
thi< igs ; strange, shy creatures came and went about him as he 
walked ; down in the woods a nightingale had begun to sing ; 
and there was something grandly majestic in the huge bulk of 
the castle as it towered against the sky. But Baxter had tempor- 
arily lost his sense of smell ; he feared and disliked the strange, 
shy creatures; the nightingale left him cold; and the only 



212 


L,eave it to Psmith 


thought the towering castle inspired in him was that it looked 
as if a fellow would need half a ton of dynamite to get into it. 

Baxter paused. He was back now near the spot from which 
he had started, having completed two laps without finding any 
solution of his difficulties. The idea in his mind had been to 
stand under somebody’s window and attract the sleeper’s 
attention with soft, significant whistles. But the first whistle he 
emitted had sounded to him in the stillness of early morn so 
like a steam syren that thereafter he had merely uttered timid, 
mouse- like sounds which the breezes had carried away the 
moment they crept out. I Ic proposed now to halt for a while 
and rest his lips before making another attempt. He proceeded 
to the terrace wall and sat down. The clock over the stables 
struck three. 

To the restless type of thinker like Rupert Baxter, the act of 
sitting down is nearly always the signal for the brain to begm 
working with even more than its customary encigy. The re- 
laxed body seems to invite thought. And Baxter, having sus- 
pended for the moment his physical activities - and glad to do 
so, for his slippers hurt him - gave himself up to tense specula- 
tion as to the hiding-place of Lady Constance Keeble’s neck- 
lace. From the '^pot where he now sat he was probably, he re- 
flected, actually in a position to see that hiding-place - if only, 
when he saw it, he were able to recognize it for what it was. 
Somewhere out here - in yonder bushes or in some unsuspecte<l 
hole in yonder tree - the jewels must have been placed. Or • . . 

Something seemed to go off inside Baxter like a touched 
spring. One moment, he was sitting limply, keenly conscious 
of a blister on the sole ()f his left foot; the next, regaidless of 
the blister, he was off the wall and racing madly along the ter- 
race in a flurry of flying slippers. Inspiration had come to him. 

Day dawns early in the summer months, and already a sort 
of unhealthy had begun to manifest itself in the sky. It 

was still far from light, but objects hitherto hidden in the 
gloom had begun to take on uncertain shape. And among these 
there had come into the line of Baxter’s \ ision a row of fifteen 
flower-pots. 



Almost Entirely About E lower-pots 215 

Thcte they stood, side by side, round and inviting, each 
with a geranium in its bed of mould. Fifteen flower-pots. 
There had originally been sixteen, but Baxter knew nothing 
of that. All he knew was that he was on the trail. 

The quest for buried treasure is one which right through the 
ages has exercised an irresistible spell over humanity. Con- 
fronted with a spot where buried treasure may lurk, men do 
not stand upon the order of their digging ; they go at it with 
both hands. No solicitude for his empU^ycr’s geraniums came 
to hamper Rupert Baxter’s researches. To grasp the first flower- 
pot and tilt out its contents was with him the work of a moment. 
He scrabbled his fingers thro igh the little pile of mould . , . 

Nothing. 

A second geranium lay broken on the ground . . . 

Nothing. 

A third . , 


The Efficient Baxter straightened himself painfully. He was 
unused to stooping, and bis back ached. But physical discom- 
fort was forgotten in the agony of hope frustrated. As he stood 
there, wiping his forehead witn an earth -stained hand, fifteen 
geranium corpses gazed up at him in the growing light, it 
seemed with reproach. But Baxtei felt no remorse. He included 
all geraniums, all thieves, and most of the human race m tme 
comprehensive black haired. 

All that Rupert Baxter wanted in this world now was bed. 
The clock over the stables had just stiuck four, and he was 
aware of an overpoweiing fatigue. Somehcjw or other, if he 
had to dig through the walls with hi'v bate hands, he must get 
into the house. He dragged himself painfully from the scene of 
carnage and blinked up at the row of silent windows above 
him. He was past whistling now. He stooped for a pebble, and 
tossed it up at the nearest window. 

Nothing happened. Whoever was sleeping up there con- 
tinued to sleep. The sky had turned pink, birds were twittering 
in the ivy, other birds had begun to sing in the bushes. All 



214 Leave it to P smith 

Nature, in short, was waking - except the unseen sluggard up 
in that room. ' 

He threw another pebble 


It seemed to Rupert Baxter that he had been standing there 
throwing pebbles through a nightmare eternity. The whole 
universe had now become concentrated in his efforts to rouse 
that log-like sleeper; and for a brief instant fatigue left him, 
driven away by a sort of Berserk fury. And there floated into 
his mind, as if from some previous existence, a memory of 
somebody once standing near where he was standing now and 
throwing a flower-pot in at a window at somec^ne. Who it was 
that had thrown the thing at whom, he could not at the 
moment recall ; but the outstanding point on which his mind 
focused itself was the fact that the man had had the right idea. 
This was no time for pebbles. Pebbles were feeble and inade- 
quate. With one voice the birds, the breezes, the grasshoppers, 
the whole chorus of Nature waking to another day seemed to 
shout to him, ‘Say it with flower-pots T 

IV 

The ability to sleep soundly and deeply is the prerogative, 
as has been pointed out earlier in this straightforward narra- 
tive of the simple home-life of the English upper classes, of 
those who do not think quickly. The Earl of Ems worth, who 
liad not thought quickly since the occasion in the summer of 
1874 when he had heard his father’s footsteps approaching the 
stable-loft in which he, a lad of fifteen, sat smoking his first 
cigar, was an excellent sleeper. He started early and finished 
late. It was his gentle boast that for more thar twenty years he 
had never inissed his full eight hours. Generally he managed 
to get something nearer ten. 

But then, as a rule, people did not fling flower-pots through 
his window at four in the morning. 

Even under this unusual handicap, I f wever, he struggled 
bravely to preserve his record. The first of Baxter’s missiles. 



Almost Entirely About V lower-pots 2 1 5 

falling on a settee, produced no change in his tegular breath- 
ing. The second, which struck the carpet, caused him to stir. 
It was the third, colliding sharply with his humped back, that 
definitely woke him. He sat up in bed and stared at the thing. 

In the first moment of his waking, relief was, oddly enough, 
his chief emotion. Tlie blow had roused him from a disquiet- 
ing dream in which he had been arguing with Angus McAllis- 
ter about early spring bulbs, and McAllister, worsted verbally, 
had hit him in the ribs with a spud. Even in his dream Lord 
Emsworth had been perplexed as to what his next move ought 
to bt" ; and when he found himself awake and in his bedroom 
he was at first merely thankful that the necessity for making a 
decision had at any rate been postponed. Angus McAllister 
might on some future occasion smite him with a spud, but he 
had not done it yet. 

There followed a period of vague bewilderment. He looked 
at the flo’' /er-pot. It held no message for him. He had not put 
it there. He never took dower-pots to bed. Once, as a child, he 
had taken a dead pet rabbit, but never a flowei-pot. The whole 
affair was completely iriscrutablc ; and his lordship, unable to 
solve the mystery, was on the point of taking the statesman- 
like course of going to sleep again, when son^ething large and 
solid whizzed through the open window and clashed gainst 
the wall, where it broke, but not into such small fragments 
that he could not perceive that in its prime it, too, had been a 
flower-pot. And at this monjent his eyes fell on the carpet and 
then on the settee ; and the aftair passed still farther into the 
realm of the inexplicable. The J Ion. Freddie Threepwood, who 
had a poor singing- voice but was a game trier, had been an- 
noying his father of late by crooning a ballad ending in the 
words: 

It is not raining rain at all: 

It's raining vi-o-lets. 

It seemed to Lord Emsworth now that matters had gone a step 
farther. It was raining flower-pots. 

The customary attitude of the Earl of Emsworth towards all 



2i6 


Leave it to 1? smith 


mundane affairs was one of vague detachment ; but this pheno- 
menon was so remarkable that he found himself stirred to quite 
a little flutter of excitement and interest. His brain still refused 
to cope with the problem of why anybody should be throwing 
flower-pots into his room at this hour - or, indeed, at any hour ; 
but it seemed a good idea to go and ascertain who this peculiar 
person was. 

fie put on his glasses and hopped out of bed and trotted to 
the window. And it was while he was on his way there that 
memory stirred in him, as some minutes ago it had stirred in 
the Efficient Baxter. He recalled that odd episode of a few days 
back, when that dehghtful girl. Miss What*s-her-namc, had in- 
formed him that his secretary had been throwing flower-pots 
at that poet fellow, McTodd. He had been annoyed, he remem- 
bered, that Baxter should so far have forgotten himself. Now, 
he found himself more frightened than annoyed. Just as every 
dog is permitted one bite without having its sanity questioned, 
so, if you consider it in a broad-minded way, may every man 
be allowed to throw one flower-pot. But let the thing become 
a habit, and we look askance. This strange hobby of his ap- 
peared to be growing on Baxter like a drug, and Lord Ems- 
worth did not like it at all. He had never before suspected his 
secretary of an unbalanced mind, but now he mused, as he 
tiptoed cautiously to the window, that the Baxter sort of man, 
the energetic, restless type, was just the kind that docs go ofl 
his head. Just some such calamity as this, his lordship felt, he 
might have foreseen. Day in, day out, Rupert Baxter had been 
exercising his brain ever since he had come to the castle - and 
now he had gone and sprained it. Lord Emsworth peeped 
timidly out from behind a curtain. 

His worst fears were realized. It was Baxter, sure enough ; 
and a tousled, wild-eyed Baxter incredibly clad in lemon- 
coloured pyjamas. 

Lord Emsworth stepped back from the window. He had 
seen sufficient. The pyjamas had in somt curious way set the 
coping-stone on his dismay, and he was now in a condition 



Almost 'Entirely About Flomr-pois z 1 7 

appjoximating to panic. That Baxter should be so irresistibly 
impelled by his strange mania as actually to omit to attire him- 
self decently before going out on one of these flower-pot- 
hurling expeditions of his seemed to make it all so sad and 
hopeless. The dreamy peer was no poltroon, but he was past 
his first youth, and it came to him very forcibly that the inter- 
viewing and pacifying of secretaries who ran amok was young 
man’s work. He stole across the room and opened the door. 
It was his purpose to put this matter into the hands of an agent. 
And so it came about that Psmith was aroused some few 
minutes later from slumber by a touch on the arm and sat up 
to find his host’s pale face peering at him in the weird light of 
early morning. 

‘My dear fellow/ quavered Lord Emsworth. 

Psmith, like Baxter, was a light sleeper; and it was only a 
moment before he was wide awake and exerting himself to do 
the court>.sies. 

‘Good morning/ he said pleasantly. ‘Will you take a seat?’ 

‘I am extremely sorry to be obliged to wake you, my dear 
fellow,’ said his lordship, ‘but the f?ct of the matter is, my 
secretary, Baxter, has gone off his head.’ 

‘Much?’ inquired Psmith, interested. 

‘He is out in the garden in his pyjamas, throwing flower- 
pots through my window/ 

‘Flower-pots?’ 

‘Flower-pots I ’ 

‘Oh, flower-pots I’ said Psmith, frowning thoughtfully, as 
if he had expected it would be soiiictliing else. ‘ And what steps 
are you proposing to take? That is to say/ he went on, ‘unless 
you wish him to continue throwing fiowei-pots.’ 

‘My dear fellow . . .!’ 

‘Some people like it/ explained Psmith. ‘But you do not? 
Quite oo, quite so. I understand perfectly. We all have our likes 
and dislikes. Well, what would you suggest?’ 

‘I was hoping that you might consent to go down - er - 
having possibly armed yourself with a good stout stick - and 
induce him to desist and return to bed/ 



2X8 


heave it to Ps/aith 


‘A sound suggestion in which I can see no flaw/ said Psmith 
approvingly. ‘If you will make yourself at home in here - par- 
don me for issuing invitations to you in your own house I 
will see what can be done. 1 have always found Comrade Bax- 
ter a reasonable man, ready to welcome suggestions from out- 
side sources, and I have no doubt that we shall easily be able 
to reach some arrangement/ 

He got out of bed, and, having put on his slippers, and his 
monocle, paused before the mirror to brush his hair. 

‘For,’ he explained, ‘one must be natty when entering the 
presence of a Baxter/ 

He went to the closet and took from among a number of 
hats a neat llomburg. Then, having selected from a bowl of 
flowers on the mantelpiece a simple white rose, he pinned it in 
the coat of his pyjama suit and announced himself ready* 


The sudden freshet of vicious energy which had vSpurred the 
Efficient Baxter on to his recent exhibition of marksmanship 
had not lasted. Lethargy was creeping back on him even as he 
stooped to pick up the flower-pot which had found its billet 
on Lord Emsworth’s spine. And, as he stood there after hurl- 
ing that final missile, he had realized that that was his last shot. 
If that produced no results, he was finished. 

And, as fat as he could gather, it had produced no results 
whatever. No head had popped inquiringly out of the window. 
No sound of anybody stirring had reached his ears. The place 
was as still as if he had been throwing marsh-mallows. A weary 
sigh escaped from Baxter’s lips. And a moment later he was 
reclining on the ground with his head propped against the 
terrace, a beaten man. 

His eyes closed. Sleep, which he had been denying to him- 
self for so long, would be denied no more. When Psmith 
arrived, d*^intily swinging the Hon. Freddie Threepwood’s 
niblick like a clouded cane, he had just ^ ^gun to snore. 



Almost Entirely About Flower- pots 219 

Psmith was a kindly soul. He did not like Rupert Baxter, but 
that was no reason why he should allow him to continue lying 
on turf wet with the morning dew, thus courting lumbago and 
sciatica. He pmddcd Baxter in the stomach with the niblick, 
and the secretary sat up, blinking. And with returning con- 
sciousness came a burning sense of grievance. 

‘Well, you’ve been long enough,’ he growled. Then, as he 
rubbed his red-rimmed eyes and was able to see more clearly, 
he perceived who it was that had come to his rescue. The 
spectacle of Psmith of all people beaming benignly down at 
him was an added offence. ‘Oh, it’s you?’ he said morosely. 

‘Unperson,’ said Psmith genially. ‘Awake, belovedi Awake, 
for morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that puts 
the stars to flight ; and lol the hunter of the East has caught the 
Sultan’s turret in a roose of light. The Sultan himself/ he 
added, ‘you will find behind yonder window, speculating idly 
on your moth es for bunging flower-pots at him. Why, if I 
may venture the question, did you.-'’ 

Baxter was in no confiding mood. Without replying, he rose 
to his feet and started to trudge wearily along the terrace to 
the front door, Psmith fell into step beside him. 

‘If I were you,’ said Psmith, ‘and I offer -he suggestion in 
the most cordial spirit of goodwill, I would use every effort to 
prevent this passion f(#r flinging flower-pots from growing 
upon me. I know you will say that you can take it or leave it 
alone; that just one more pot won’t hurt you; but can you 
stop at one? Isn’t it just that first insidious fle wer-pot that does 
all the mischief? Be a man. Comrade Baxter I ’ He laid his hand 
appealingly on the secretary’^^ shoulder. ‘The next time the 
craving comes on you, fight it. Fight it! Are you, the heir of 
the ages, going to become a slave to a habit? Tush) You know 
and I know that there is better stuff in you than that. Use your 
will-power, man, use your will-power.’ 

Whatever reply Baxter might have intended to make to this 
powerful harangue - and his attitude as he turned on his com- 
panion suggested that he had much to say - was checked by 
a voice from above. 



220 


Leave H to P smith 


‘Baxter! My dear fellow!* 

The Earl of Emsworth, having observed the secretary's 
awakening from the safe observation-post of Psmith*s bed- 
room, and having noted that he seemed to be exhibiting no 
signs of violence, had decided to make his presence known. 
His panic had passed, and he wanted to go into first causes. 

Baxter gazed wanly up at the window. 

‘1 can explain everything. Lord Emsworth.’ 

‘What?* said his lordship, leaning farther out. 

‘ I can explain everything,* bellowed Baxter. 

‘It turns out after all,’ said Psmith pleasantly, ^to be very 
simple. He was practising for the Jerking The Geranium event 
at the next Olympic Games.’ 

Lord Emsworth adjusted his glasses. 

‘Your face is dirty,* he said, peering down at his dishevelled 
secretary. ‘Baxter, my dear fellow, your face is dirty.’ 

‘ I was dlf^ging,’ replied Baxter sullenly. 

‘What?’^ 

‘DiggingP 

‘The terrier complex,’ explained Smith. ‘What,’ he asked 
kindly, turning to his companion, ‘were you digging for? 
Forgive me if the question seems an impertinent one, but we 
are naturally curious.’ 

Baxter hesitated. 

‘What were you digging for?’ asked Lord Emsworth* 

‘You see,’ said Psmith. ‘H? wants to know.* 

Not for the first time since they had become associated,a mad 
feeling of irritation at his employer’s woolly persistence flared 
up in Rupert Baxter’s bosom. The old ass was always pottering 
about asking questions. Fury and want of sleep combined to 
dull the secretary’s normal prudence. Dimly he realized that he 
was imparting Psmith, the scoundrel who he was convinced was 
the ringleader of last night’s outrage, valuable information ; but 
anything was better than to have to stand here shouting up at 
Lord Emsworth. He wanted to get it over and go to bed. 

‘I thought Lady Constance’s necklace was in one of the 
flower-pots,’ he shrilled. 



Almost Untinly AhotU JFlomr-pois 221 

‘What?* 

The secretary’s powers of endurance gave out. This mad- 
dening inquisition, coming on top of the restless night he had 
had, was too much for him. With a low moan he made one 
agonized leap for the front door and passed through it to 
where beyond these voices there was peace. 

Psmith, deprived thus abruptly of bis stimulating society, 
remained for some moments standing near the front door, 
drinking in with grave approval the fresh scents of the summer 
morning. It was many years since he had been up and about as 
ea»'ly as this, and he had forgotten how delightful the first be- 
ginnings of a July day can be. l^nlikc Baxter, on whose self- 
centred soul these things had been lost, he revelled in the soft 
breezes, the singing birds, the growing pinkness of the castCxn 
sky. He awoke at length from his re\erie to find that Lord 
Emsworth had toddled down and was tapping him on the arm. 

‘ Whi t did he say ?* inquired his lordship. He was feeling like 
a man who has been cut off in the midst of an absorbing tele- 
phone conversation, 

‘Say?’ said Psmith, ^Oh, Comrade Baxter? Now, let me 
think. What did he say?’ 

‘Something about s<>mething being In a flowcr-pot,’ 
prompted his lordship. 

‘ Ah, yes. He said he thought that Lady Constance’s neck- 
lace was in one of the flower-pots,’ 

‘What!’ 

I.ord Emsworth, it should be mentioned, was not com- 
pletely in touch with recent happenings in his home. His habit 
of going early to bed had caused him to miss the sensational 
events in the drawing-room : and, as he was a sound sleeper, 
the subsequent screams - or, as Stokes the footman would have 
said, shrieks - had not disturbed him. He stared at Psmith, 
aghast. For a while the apparent placidity of Baxter had lulled 
his first suspicions, but now they returned with renewed force. 

‘Baxter thought my sister’s necklace was in a flower-pot?’ 
he gasped. 

‘ So I understood him to say.* 



222 


Leave it to Psmith 


‘ But why should my sister keep her necklace in a flower-pot?' 

‘Ah, there you take me into deep waters.' 

‘The man’s mad,' cried Lord Emsworth, his last doubts 
removed. ‘Stark, staring madl I thought so before, and now 
I’m convinced of it.' 

Ilis lordship was no novice in the symptoms of insanity. 
Several of his best friends were residing in those palatial estab- 
lishments set in pleasant parks and surrounded by high walls with 
broken bottles on them, to which the wealthy and aristocratic 
are wont to retire when the strain of modern life becomes too 
great. And one of his uncles by marriage, who believed that he 
was a loaf of bread, had made his first public statement on the 
matterinthe smoking-room of this very castle. What Lord Ems- 
worth did not know about lunatics was not worth knowing. 

‘I must get rid him,' he said. And at the thought the fair 
morning seemed to Lord Emsworth to take on a sudden new 
beauty. Manv a time had he toyed wistfully with the idea of 
dismissing his efficient but tyrannical secretary, but never be- 
fore had that sickeningly competent young man given him any 
reasonable cause to act. Hitherto, moreover, he had feared his 
sister’s wrath should he take the plunge. But now . . . Surely 
even Connie, pig-headed as she was, could not blame him for 
dispensing with the services of a secretary who thought she 
kept her necklaces in flower-pots, and went out into the gar- 
den in the early dawn to hurl them at his bedroom window. 

His demeanour took on a sudden buoyancy. He hummed a 
gay air. 

‘Get rid of him,’ he murmured, rolling the blessed words 
round his tongue. He patted Psmith genially on the shoulder. 
‘Well, my dear fellow,' he said, ‘I suppose wc had better be 
getting back to bed and seeing if we can't get a little sleep,' 

Psmith gave a little start. He had been somewhat deeply 
immersed in thought. 

‘ Do not,’ he said courteously/ let me keep you from the hay if 
you wish to retire. To me - you know wha" ve poets are - this 
lovely morning has brought inspiration. I think I will push off to 
my little nook in the woods, and write a poem about something.* 



Almost Entirely About V lower-pots 225 

He accompanied his host up the silent stairs, and they parted 
with mutual good will at their respective doors. Psmith, hav- 
ing cleared his brain with a hurried cold bath, began to dress. 

As a rule, the donning of his clothes was a solemn ceremony 
over which he dwelt lovingly; but this morning he abandoned 
his customary leisurely habit. He climbed into his trr)uscrs with 
animation, and lingered but a moment over the tying of his tic. 
He was convinced that there was that before him wh'ch would 
pay for haste. 

Nothing in this world is sadder than the frequency with 
wiiich we suspect our fellows without just cause. In the hap^ 
penings of the night before, Psmith had seen the hand of Ed- 
ward Cootes. Edtvard Cootes, he considered, had been i^idulg- 
ing in what - in another - he would certainly have described 
as funny business. Like Miss Simmons, Psmith had quickly 
arrived at the conclusion that the necklace had been thrown 
out of ihe drawing-room window by one of those who made 
up the audience at his reading : and it was his firm belief that it 
had been picked up and hidden bv Mr Cootes. He had been 
trying to think ever since where that persevering man could 
have concealed it, and Baxter had piovidcd the clue. But 
Psmith saw clearer than Baxter. The sccictary, having dis- 
embowelled fifteen dower-pots and found nothing, had aban- 
doned his theory. Psmith went further, and suspected the 
existence of a sixteenth. And he propo'^ed as soon as he was 
dressed to sally downstaiis in search of it. 

He put on his shoes, and left the room, buttoning liis waist- 
coat as he went. 


VI 

The hands of the clock over the stables were poiiiting to half- 
past five when Eve Halliday, tiptoeing furtively, made another 
descent of the stairs. Her feelings as she went were very differ- 
ent from those which had caused her to tump at every sound 
when she had started on this same jemrney three hours earlier. 
Then, she had been a prowler in the darkness and, as such, a 
fitting object of suspicion : now, if she happened to run into 



224 Leave it to P smith 

anybody, she was merely a girl who, unable to sleep, had risen 
early to take a stroll in the garden. It was a distinction that 
made all the difference. 

Moreover, it covered the facts. She had not been able to 
sleep - except for an hour when she had dozed off in a chair 
by her v/indow ; and she certainly proposed to take a stroll in 
the garden. It was her intention to recover the necklace from 
the place where she had deposited it, and bury it somewhere 
where no one could possibly find it. There it could lie until she 
had a chance of meeting and talking to Mr Keeble, and ascer- 
taining what was the next step he wished taken. 

Two reasons had led Eve, after making her panic dash back 
into the house after lurking in the bushes while Baxter pat- 
rolled the terrace, to leave her precious flowet-pot on the sill 
of the window beside the front door. She had read in stories 
of sensation that for purposes of concealment the most open 
place is the best place : and, secondly, the nearer the front door 
she put the flower-pot, the less distance would she liavc to 
carry it when the time came for its removal. In the present ex- 
cited condition of the household, with every guest an amateur 
detective, the spectacle of a girl tripping downstairs with a 
flower-pot in her arms would excite remark. 

Eve felt exhilarated. She was not used to getting only one 
hour’s sleep in the course of a night, but excitement and the 
reflection that she had played a difficult game and won it against 
odds bore her up so strongly that she was not conscious of 
fatigue: and so uplifted did she feel that as she reached the 
landing above the hall she abandoned her cautious mode of 
progress and ran down the remaining stairs. She Ic ad the sensa- 
tion of being in the last few yards of a winning race. 


The hall was quite light now. Every object in it was plainly 
visible. There was the huge dinner-gong ; there was the long 
leather settee : there was the table which she had upset in the 
darkness. And there was the sill of the wiiidow by the front 
door. But the flower-pot which had been on it was gone. 



CHAPTER 12 


olMore on the lower-pot Theme 

I N any community in which a sensational crime has recently 
been committed, the feelings of the individuals who go to 
maKc up that community must of necessity vary somewhat 
sharply according to the degree in which the personal fortunes 
of each are affected by the outrage. Vivid in their own wt/ as 
may be the emotions of one who secs a fellow-citizen sand- 
bagged in a quiet street, they difler in kind from those experi- 
enced by the victim himself. And so, though the theft of Lady 
(i^onstance Keeble’s diamond necklace had stirred ^landings 
Castle to its depths, it had not affected all those present in quite 
the same way. It left the house-party divided into two distinct 
schools of thought - the one finding ^ n the occurrence material 
for gloom and despondency, the other deriving from it nothing 
but joyful excitement. 

To this latter section belonged those free young spir.is who 
had chafed at the prospect of being herded into the drawing- 
room on the eventful night to h<^un to Psmith’s reading of 
Songs of Squalor, It made them tremble now to think of what 
thc} would have missed, had I^ady Constance s vigilance re- 
laxed sufficiently to enable them to execute the quiet sneak for 
the billiard-room of which even at the eleventh hemr they had 
thought so wistfully. As far as the Reggies, Bcrtics, Gaudes, 
ard Archies at that moment enjoying Lord Emsworth s hospi- 
tality were concerned the thing was tf>p-hole, priceless, an 
indisputably what the doctor ordered. They spent a great dea 
of their time going frt?m one country-house to another, and 
as a rule found the routine a little monotonous. A happening 
like that of the previous night gave a splendid zip to rural i u. 
And when they reflected that, light on top of this binge, there 



226 


Leave it to Psmith 


was coming the County Ball, it seemed to them that God was 
in His heaven and all right with the world. They stuck cigar- 
ettes in long holders, and collected in groups, chattering like 
starlings. 

The gloomy brigade, those with hearts bowed down, lis- 
tened to their effervescent babbling with wan distoste. These 
last were a small body numerically, but very select. Lady Con- 
stance might have been described as their head and patroness. 
Morning found her still in a state bordering on collapse. After 
breakfast, however, which she took in her room, and which 
was sweetened by an interview with Mr Joseph KeebJe, her 
husband, she brightened considerably, Mr Kccble, thought 
Lady Constance, behaved magnificently". She had always loved 
him dearly, but never so much as when, abstaining fiom the 
slightest reproach of her obstinacy in refusing to allow the 
jewels to be placed in the bank, he spaciously informed her 
that he would bu) her another necklace, just as good and cost- 
ing every penny as much as the old one. It was at this point 
that Lady Constance almost seceded from the ranks of gloom. 
She kissed Mr Keeble gratefully, and attacked with something 
approaching animation the boiled egg at which she had been 
pecking when he came in. 

But a few minutes later the average of despair was restored 
by the enrolment of Mr Keeble in the ranks of the despondent. 
He had gladsomely assumed overnight that one of his agents, 
either E\c or Freddie, had been responsible for the disappcai- 
ance of the necklace. The fact that Freddie, interviewed by 
stealth in his room, gapingly disclaimed any share in the matter 
had not damped him. He had never expected results from 
Freddie. But when, after leaving Lady Constance, he encount- 
ered Eve and was given a short outline of history, beginning 
with her acquisition of the necklace, and ending - like a 
modern novel - on the sombre note of her finding the flower- 
pot gone, he too sat him down and mourned as deeply as 
anyone. 

Passing with a brief mention over Freridie, whose morose 
bearing was the subject of considerable comment among the 



More on the Flower-pot Theme 227 

younger set; over Lord Emsworth, who woke at twelve 
o’clock disgusted to find that he had missed several hours 
among his beloved flower-beds ; and over the Efficient Baxter, 
who was roused from sleep at twelve-fifteen by Thomas the 
footman knocking on his door in order to hand him a note 
from his employer enclosing a cheque, and dispensing with his 
services ; we come to Miss Peavey. 

At twenty minutes past eleven on this morning when so 
much was happening to so many people, Miss Peavey stood in 
the Yew Alley gazing belligerently at the stemless mushroom 
fmiil of a tree about half-way between the entrance and the 
point where the alley merged into the west wood. She ap- 
peared to be soliloquizing. For, though words were proet ed- 
ing from her with considerable rapidity, there seemed to be no- 
one in sight to whom they were being addressed. Only an 
exceptionally keen observer would have noted a slight signi- 
ficant quivering among the tree's tightly-woven branches. 

^You poor bone-headed fisli,’ the poetess was saying with 
that strained tenseness which results frt^m the churning up of a 
generous and emotional nature, ‘isn’t there anything in this 
world you can do without tumbling over your feet and making 
a mess of it? All I ask of you is to stroll under a window and 
pick up a few jewels, and now you come and tell me , . 

*But, Liz!’ said the tree plaintively. 

‘1 do all the diflScult part of ihe job. All that th'^re was left 
for you to handle was something a cluld of three could have 
done on its ear. A.nd now • . , ’ 

‘But, Liz! I’m telling you 1 couldn’t find the stuff. I was 
down there all right, but I coaldn'^ find it.’ 

‘ You couldn’t find it ! ’ Miss Peavey pawed restlessly at the 
soft tuif with a shapely shoe. ‘You’re the sort of dumb Isaac 
that couldn’t find a bass-drum in a telephone booth. You 
didn’t lookJ" 

‘ I did look. Honest, I did.^ 

‘ Well, the stuff was there, t threw it down the moment the 
b'ghts went out.’ 

‘ Somebody must have got there first, and swiped it. 



228 Leave H to Psmitb 

* Who could have got there first? Everybody was up in the 
room where I was/ 

‘ Are you sure/ 

‘Am I sure? Am I . , / The poetess’s voice trailed off. She 
was staring down the Yew Alley at a couple who had just 
entered. She hissed a warning in a sharp undertone. ‘Hsst! 
Cheese it, Ed. There’s someone coming.’ 

The two intruders who had caused Miss Peavey to suspend 
her remarks to her erring lieutenant were of opposite sexes - 
a tall girl with fair hair, and a taller young man irreproachably 
clad in white flannels who beamed down at his companion 
through a single eye-glass. Miss Pcavc}' gazed at them search- 
ingly as they approached. A sudden thought had come to her 
at the sight of them. Mistrusting Psmith as she had done ever 
since Mr Cootes had unmasked him for the impostor that he 
was, the fact that they were so often together had led her to 
extend her suspicion to Eve. It might, of course, be nothing 
but a casual frii?ndship, begun here at the castle; but Miss 
Peavey had always felt that Eve would bear watcliing. And 
now, seeing them together again this morning, it had suddenly 
come to her that she did not recall having observed Eve among 
the gathering in the drawing-room last night. True, there had 
been many people present, but Eve’s appearance was striking, 
and she was sure that she would have noticed her, if she had 
* been there. And, if she had not been there, why should she not 
have been on the terrace? Somebody had been on the terrace 
last night, that was certain. For all her censorious attitude in 
their recent conversation. Miss Peavey had not really i^ her 
heart believed that even a dumb-bell like Eddie Cootes would 
not have found the necklace if it had been lying under the 
window on his arrival. 

*Oh, good morning, Mr McTodd/ she cooed. ‘I’m feeling 
so upset about this terrible affair. Aicn*t jou^ Miss Halliday?’ 

‘Yes,’ said Eve, and she had never said a more truthful word. 

Psmith, for his part, was in more deb.^iair and cheerful 
mood even than was his wont. He had examined the position 
of affairs and found life good. He was particularly pleased with 



More on the Flower-pot Theme 229 

the fact that he had persuaded Eve to stroll with him this 
morning and inspect his cottage in the woods. Buoyant as was 
iiis temperament, he had been half afraid that last jnight*s inter- 
view on the terrace might have had disastrous effects on their 
intimacy. He was now feeling full of kindliness and goodwill 
towards all mankind - even Miss Peavey ; and he bestowed on 
the poetess a dazzling smile. 

' We must always,’ he said, ‘endeavour to look on the bright 
side. It was a pity, no doubt, that my reading last night had to 
be stopped at a cost of about twenty thousand pounds to the 
Keeble coffers, but let us not forget that but for that timely 
interruption I should have gone on for about another hour. 
I am like that. My friends have frequently told me that v^^hen 
once 1 start talking it requires something in the nature of a 
cataclysm to stop me. But, of course, there are drawbacks to 
everything, and last night’s rannygazoo perhaps shook your 
nervous system to some extern?’ 

‘ 1 was dreadfully frightened,’ said Miss Peavey. She turned 
to Eve with a delicate shiver. event you. Miss Ilalliday?’ 

‘I wasn’t there,’ said K.ve absently. 

‘Miss Ilalliday,’ explained Psmith, ‘has had in the last few 
days some little experience of myself as orator, and with her 
usual good sense decided not to go out of her way to get more 
of me than was absolutely necessary. 1 was perhaps a trifle 
wounded at the moment, hut on thinking it over v^mc to the 
conclusion that she was perfectly justified in her attitude I 
endeavour always in my conversation to instruct, elevate, and 
entertain, but there is no gainsaying the fact that a purist might 
consider enough of my chit-chat to be suflicient. Such, at any 
rate, was Miss llalliday’s view% and I honour hi^r for it. But 
h^ ce 1 am, rambling on again just when I can see that you wish 
to be alone. We will leave you, therefoie, to muse. No doubt 
wc have been interrupting a train of thought which would 
have resulted but for my arrival in a rondel or a ballade or 
some other poetic morceau. Come, Miss Ilalliday. A weird and 
repellent female,’ he said to Eve as they drew out of hearing, 
‘created for some purpose which I cannot fathom. Everything 



Lemfe it to ^ smith 


z^o 

in this world, I like to think, is placed there for some useful 
end ; but why the authorities unleashed Miss Peavey on us is 
beyond me. It is not too much to say that she gives me a pain 
in the gizzard/ 

Miss Peavey, unaware of these harsh views, had watched 
them out of sight, and now she turned excitedly to the tree 
which sheltered her ally. 

‘Edr 

‘ Hello?' replied the muffled voice of Mr Cootes. 

‘Did you hear?' 

‘No/ 

‘Oh, my heavens!’ cried his overwrought partner. ^He’s 
gone deaf now! That girl - you didn’t hear what she was say- 
ing? She said that she wasn’t in the drawing-room when those 
lights went out. Ed, she was down below on the terrace, that’s 
where she was, picking up the stuff. And if it isn’t hidden 
somewheies in that Me Todd’s shack down there in the woods 
ril eat my Sunday rubbers.’ 

Eve, with Psrnith prattling amiably at her side, pursued her 
way through the wood. She was wondering why she had come. 
She ought, she felt, to have been very cold and distant to this 
young man after what had occurred between them last night. 
But somehow it was difficult to be cold and distant with 
Psrnith, He cheered her stricken soul. By the time they reached 
the little clearing and came in sight of the squat, shed-like 
building with its funny windows and stained door, her spirits, 
always mercurial, had risen to a point where she found herself 
almost able to forget her troubles. 

‘What a horrible-looking place!’ she exciaimeffi ‘Whatever 
did you want it for ? ’ 

‘Purely as a nook,’ said Psrnith, taking out his key. ‘You 
know how the man of sensibility and refinement needs a nook. 
In this rushing age it is imperative that the thinker shall have 
a place, however humble, where he can be alone.’ 

‘But you aren’t a thinker/ 

‘ You wrong me. For the last few days I have been doing some 
extremely brisk thinking. And the strain has taken its toll. The 



More on the Flower-pot Theme 23 1 

fierce whirl of life at Blandings is wearing me away. There are 
dark circles under my eyes and 1 see floating spots.’ He opened 
the door. "Well, here we are. Will you pop in for a moment?' 

Eve went in. The single sitting-room of the cottage cer- 
tainly bore out the promise of the exterior. It contained a table 
with a red cloth, a chair, three stuffed birds in a glass case on 
the wall, and a small horsehair sofa. A depressing musty scent 
pervaded the place, as if a cheese had recently died there in 
painful circumstances. Eve gave a little shiver of distaste. 

‘1 understand your silent criticism,' said Psmith. "You are 
saying to yourself that plain living and high thinking is evi- 
dently the ideal of the gamekeepers on the Blandings estate. 
They are strong, rugged men who care little for the refine- 
ments of interior decoration. But shall we blame them? If I had 
to spend most of the day and night chrA^dng poachers and 
keeping an eye on the local rabbits, I imagine that in my off- 
hours practically anything with a roof would satisfy me. It was 
in the hope that you might be able to offer some hints and sug- 
gestions for small improvements here and there that I invited 
you to inspect my little place. There is no doubt that it wants 
doing up a bit, by a woman’s gentle hand. Will you take a look 
round and give out a few ideas? The wall-paper is, I fear, a 
fixture, but in every other direction consider yourself un- 
trammelled.' 

Eve looked about her. 

‘Well,' she began dubiously, ‘I don’t think . . .’ 

She stopped abruptly, tingling all over. A second glance 
had shown her something which her first careless inspection 
had overlooked- Half hidden by a ragged curtain, there stood 
on the window-sill a large flower-pot containing a geranium. 
And across the surface of the fiowxr-pot was a broad splash 
of white paint. 

‘You were saying . . .?’ said Psmith courteously. 

Eve did not reply. She hardly heard hiiii. Her mind was in a 
confused whirl. A monstrous suspicion was forming itself in 
her brain. 

‘You are admiring the shrub?’ said Psmith. ‘I found it lying 



Leave it to P smith 


232 

about up at the castle this tnorning and pinched it, I thought 
it would add a touch of colour to the place/ 

Eve, looking at him keenly as his ga 2 e shifted to the flower- 
pot, told herself that her suspicion had been absurd. Surely 
this blandness could not be a cloak for guilt. 

* Where did you find it?* 

*By one of the windows in the hall, more or less wasting its 
sweetness. I am bound to say I am a little disappointed in the 
thing. I had a sort of idea it would turn the old homestead into 
a floral bower, but it doesn’t seem to.* 

‘It’s a beautiful geranium.* 

‘There,* said Psmith, ‘1 cannot agree with you. It seems to 
me to have the glanders or something.* 

‘It only wants watering/ 

‘And unfortunately this cosy little place appears to possess 
no water supply. I take it that the late proprietor when in resi^ 
dence used to trudge to the back door of the castle and fetch 
what he needed in a bucket. If this moribund plant fancies that 
I am going to spend my time racing to and fro with refresh- 
ments, it is vastly mistaken. To-morrow it goes into the dust- 
bin/ 

Eve shut her eyes. She was awed by a sense of having 
arrived at a supreme moment. She had the sensations of a 
gambler who risks all on a single throw. 

‘ What a shame ! * she said, and her voice, though she tried 
to control it, shook. ‘You had better give it to me. I’ll take 
care of it. It’s just what I want for my room.* 

‘Pray take it,* said Psmith. ‘It isn’t mine, but piay take it. 
And very encouraging it is, let me add, that you should be 
accepting gifts from me in this hearty fashion; for it is well 
known that theri is no surer sign of the dawning of the divine 
emotion - love,* he explained, ‘than this willingness to re- 
ceive presents from the hands of the adorer. I make progress, 
I make progress.* 

‘You don’t do anything of the kind,* saH Eve. Her eyes 
were sparkling and her heart sang within her. In the revulsion 
of feeling which had come to her on finding her suspicions 



More on the 'E lower-pot Theme zj 3 

unfounded she was awate of a warm friendliness towards this 
absurd young man. 

* Pardon me/ said Psmith firmly. *I am quoting an estab- 
lished authority - Auntie Belle of Home Gotstp,^ 

^ I. must be going/ said Eve. She took the flower-pot and 
hugged it to her. ‘IVe got work to do.^ 

‘Work, work, always work!* sighed Psmith. ‘The curse of 
the age. Well, I will escort you back to your cell.* 

‘No, you won’t/ said Eve. ‘1 mean, thank you for your 
polite offer, but I want to be alone.* 

‘ Alone?* Psmith looked at her, astonished. * When you have 
the chance of being with me’^ This is a strange attitude.* 
‘Good-bye,* said Eve. ‘Thank you for being so hospitable 
and lavish. 1*11 try to find some cushions and muslin and stuff 
to brighten up this place.* 

‘Your presence does that adequately,* said Psmith, accom- 
panying her to the door. ‘By the way, returning to the subject 
we were discussing last night, I forgot to mention, when 
asking you to marry me, that I can do card-tricks.* 

‘Really?* 

‘ And zho a passable imitation of a cat calUng to her young, 
bias this no weight with you? Think! These things come in 
very handy in the long winter evenings.* 

‘But I shan’t be there when you aie imitating cats in the 
long winter evenings.* 

‘1 think you are wrong. As I visualize my little home, I can 
sec you there very clearly, sitting before the fire. Your maid 
has put you into something loose. The light of the flickering 
flames reflects itself in your lovely eyes. You .^re pleasantly 
tired after an afternoon’s shopping, but not so tired as to be 
unable to select a card - af^ card ~ from the pack which I 
offer . . .* 

‘Good-bye,* said Eve. 

‘If it must be so - good-bye. For the present. I shall see 
you anon?* 



Leave it to ^ smith 


^34 

*1 expect so/ 

‘Go(^! I will count the minutes/ 


Eve walked rapidly away. As she snuggled the flower-pot 
under her arm she was feeling like a child about to open its 
Christmas stocking. Before she had gone far, a shout stopped 
her and she perceived Psmith galloping gracefully in her wake. 

*Can you spare me a moment?* said Psmith. 

* Certainly/ 

*T should have added that I can also recite ‘‘Gunga Din/* 
Will you think that over?* 

‘I will/ 

* Thank you/ said Psmith. ^ Thank you. I have a feeling 
that it may just turn the scale.* 

He raised his hat ambassadorially and galloped away again. 


Eve found herself unable to wait any longer. Psmith was out 
of sight now, and the wood was very still and empty. Birds 
twittered in the branches, and the sun made little pools of gold 
upon the ground. She cast a swift glance about her and 
crouched down in the shelter of a tree. 

The birds stopped singing. The sun no longer shone. The 
wood had become cold and sinister. For Eve, with a heart of 
lead, was staring blankly at a little pile of mould at her feet ; 
mould which she had sifted again and again in a freni'ied, 
fruitless effort to find a necklace which was not there. 

The empty flower-pot seemed to leer up at her in mockery. 



CHAPTER 13 


^smiih'K^eives Quests 


B LANDINGS Castle was astir from roof to hall. Lights 
blazed, voices shouted, bells rang. All over the huge 
building there prevailed a vast activity like that of a barracks 
on the eve of the regiment’s departure for abroad. Dinner was 
over, and the Expeditionary Force was making its final pre- 
parations before starting off in many motor-cars for the County 
Ball at Shifley . In the bedrooms on every floor, Reggies, doubt- 
ful at the last moment about their white ties, were feverishly 
arranging neu ones ; Berties brushed their already glistening 
hair; and Claudes shouted to Archies along the passages in- 
sulting inquiries as to whether they had been sneaking their 
handkerchiefs. Valets skimmed like swallows up and down 
corridors, maids fluttered in and out of rooms in aid of Beauty 
in distress. The noise penetrated into every nook and corner 
of the house. It vexed the Efficient Baxter, going through his 
papers in the library preparatory to leaving Blandings on the 
morrow for ever. It disturbed Lord Emsworth, who, stoutly 
declining to go within ten miles of the County Ball, had re- 
tired to his room with a book on Herbaceous Borders. It 
troubled the peace of Beach the butler, refreshing himself after 
his activities around the dinner table with a glass of sound port 
in the housekeeper’s room. The only person in the place who 
p3id no attention to it was Eve Halliday. 

Eve was too furious to pay attention to anything but her 
deleterious thoughts. As she walked on the terrace, to which 
she had fled in quest of solitude, her teeth were set and her 
blue eyes glowed belligerently. As Miss Pcavey would have 
put it in one of her colloquial moods, she was mad cleat 
through. For Eve was a girl of spirit, and there is nothing your 



Leave it to P smith 


z}6 

girl of spirit so keenly resents as being made a fool of, whether 
it be by Fate or by a fellow human creature. Eve was in the 
uncomfortable position of having had this indignity put upon 
her by both. But, while as far as Fate was concerned she merely 
smouldered rebelliously, her animosity towards Psmith was 
vivid in the extreme. 

A hot wave of humiliation made her writhe as she remem- 
bered the infantile guilelessness with which she had accepted 
the preposterous st(^ry he had told her in explanation of his 
presence at Blandings in another man’s name. He had been 
playing with her all the time - fooling her - and, most unfor- 
givable crime of all, he had dared to pretend that he was fond 
of her and - Eve’s face burned again - to make her - almost - 
fond of him. How he must ha\c laughed . . . 

Well, she was not beaten >ct. Her chin went up and she 
began to walk quicker, fie was clever, but she would be 
cleverer. The game was not over . . . 

^ Hallo I’ 

A white waistcoat was gleaming at her side. Polished shoes 
shuffled on the turf. Light hair, brushed and brilliantined 
to the last possible pitch of perfection, shone in the light 
of the stars. The Hon. Freddie Threepwood was in her 
midst. 

‘Well, Freddie?’ said Eve resignedly. 

‘I say,’ said Freddie in a voice in which self-pity fought with 
commiseration for her. ‘Beastly shame you aren’t coming to 
the hop.’ 

‘ 1 don’t mind.’ 

‘But I do, dash it! The thing won’t be anything without 
you. A bally wash-out, An<l I’ve been trying out some new 
steps with the Victrola,’ 

‘ Well, there will be plenty of other girls there for you to 
step on.’ 

‘ I don’t jvavt other girls, dash them. I want you.* 

‘That’s very nice of you/ said Eve. The t rA truculence of 
her manner had softened. She reminded herself, as she had so 
often been obliged to remind herself before, that Freddie 



Psmith 'Ricieves Guests 

nocant well. ‘ But it can’t be helped. I’m only an employee here, 
not a guest. I’m not invited.’ 

‘I know,’ said Freddie. ‘And that’s what makes it so dashed 
sickening. It’s like that picture I saw once, “ A Modern Cinder- 
ella.” Only there the girl nipped off to the dance - disguised, 
you know - and had a most topping time. I wish life was a 
bit more like the movies.’ 

‘Well, it was enough like the movies last night when . . . 
Oh!’ 

Eve stopped. Her heart gave a sudden jump. Somehow the 
presence of Freddie was so inettricably associated in her mind 
with limp proposals of marriage that she had completely for- 
gotten that there was another and a more dashing s^de to his 
nature, that side which Mr Keeblc had revealed to her at their 
meeting in Market Blandings on the previous afternoon. She 
looked at him with new eyes. 

‘Anything up.^’ said Freddie. 

Eve took him excitedly by the sleeve and drew him farther 
away from the house. Not that there was any need to do so, 
for the bustle w'ithin continued unabated. 

‘ Freddie,’ she whispered, ‘ listen! I met Mr Keeble yesterday 
after I had left you, and he told me all about how you and he 
had planned to steal Lady Constance’s necklace,’ 

‘ Good Lord ! ’ cried Freddie, and leaped like a stranded fish. 

‘ \nd I’ve got an idea,’ said Eve. 

She had, and it was one W'hich had only in this instant come 
to her. Until now’^, though she had tilted her chin bravely and 
assured herself that the game w''as not over and that she was 
not yet beaten, a small discouraging voice had whispered to 
her all the while that this was mere bravado. What, the voice 
had asked, are you going to do? And she had not been able to 
anvSwer it. But now, with Freddie as an ally, she could act. 

‘ Told you all about it?’ Freddie was muttering pallidly. He 
had never had a very high opinion of his Uncle Joseph’s men- 
tality, but he had supposed him capable of keeping a thing like 
that to himself. He W’as, indeed, thinking of Mr Keeble almost 
the identical thoughts w’'hich Mr Keeble in the first moments 



Leave it to 1^ smith 


238 

of his interview with Eve in Market Blandings had thought 
of him. And these reflections brought much the same qualms 
which they had brought to the elder conspirator. Once these 
things got talked about, mused Freddie agitatedly, you never 
knew where they would stop. Before his mental eye there 
swam a painful picture of his Aunt Constance, informed of the 
plot, tackling him and demanding the return of her necklace. 
‘Told you all about it?’ he bleated, and, like Mr Keeble, 
mopped his brow. 

^It’s all right,’ said Eve impatiently, ‘It’s quite all right. He 
asked me to steal the necklace, too.’ 

‘You?’ said Freddie, gaping. 

‘Yes.’ 

*My Gosh!’ cried Freddie, electrified. ‘Tlicn was it you who 
got the thing last night?’ 

‘Yes it was. But . . 

For a moment Freddie had to wrestle with something that 
was almost a sordid ea\^\ Then better feelings prevaded. He 
quivered with manly generosity. He gave Eve’s hand a tender 
pat. It was too dark for her to see it, but he was registering 
renunciation 

‘Little girl,’ he murmured, ‘there’s no one I’d rather got 
that thousand quid than you. If 1 couldn’t liave it myself, I 
mean to say. Little girl . , . ’ 

‘Oh, be quiet!’ cried Eve. ‘I wasn’t doing it for any thou 
sand pounds. I didn’t want Mr Kecblc to give me money . . . ’ 

‘You didn’t want him to give you money 1’ repeated Fred- 
die wonderingly. 

‘I just wanted to help Phyllis. She’s my fiiend.’ 

‘Pals, pardner, pals! Pals till hell freezes!’ cri€d Freddie, 
deeply mot^cd. 

‘What are you talking about?’ 

‘Sorry. That was a sub-title from a tiling called “Prairie 
Nell”, you know. Just happened to cross my mind. It was in 
the second reel where the two fellows are . . 

‘Yes, yes; never mind.’ 

‘Thought I’d mention it.’ 



P smith Pjicims Guests 


239 

^Teilmc . , / 

*\t seemed to fit in.’ 

‘Do stopy Freddie r 

‘Right-hol’ 

‘ Tell me,’ resumed Eve, ‘ is Mr McTodd going to the ball?* 

‘Eh? Why, yes, I suppose so.’ 

‘Then, listen. You know that little cottage your father has 
let him havel’ 

‘Little cottage?’ 

‘Yes. In the wood past the Yew Alley.’ 

‘Little cottage? I never heatd of any little cottage.’ 

‘Well, he’s got one,’ said Eve. ‘And as soon as everybody 
has gone to the ball you and I are going to burgle it.’ 

‘What!’ 

‘Burgle it!’ 

‘Burgle it?’ 

‘Yes, burgle it!’ 

Freddie gulped. 

‘Lo<jk here, old thing,’ he said plaintively. ‘This is a bit 
beyond me. It doesn’t seem to me to make sense.’ 

Eve forced herself to be patient. After all, she reflected, 
perhaps she had been approaching the matter a little rapidly. 
The desire to beat Freddie violently over the head passed, and 
she began to speak slowly, and, as far as she could manage it, 
in words of one syllable. 

‘I can make it quite clear if you will listen and not say a 
word till V \ c done. This man who calls himself McTodd is not 
Mr McTodd at all. He is a thief who got into the place by 
saying that he was McTodd. He stole the jewels from me last 
night and hid them in his cottage.’ 

'But, I say!’ 

‘Don’t interrupt. I know he has them there, so when he has 
gone to the ball and the coast is clear you and I will go and 
search till we find them.’ 

‘But, I sayl’ 

Eve crushed down her impatience once more. 

‘Well!’ 



240 Leave it to P smith 

*Do you really think this cove has got the necklace?* 

‘I know he has/ 

‘Well, then, it’s jolly well the best thing that could possibly 
have happened, because I got him here to pinch it for Uncle 
Joseph/ 

‘What I* 

‘Absolutely. You see, I began to have a doubt or two as to 
whether I was quite equal to the contract, so I roped in this 
bird by way of a gang/ 

‘You got him here? You mean you sent for him and ar- 
ranged that he should pass himself off as Mr McTodd?* 

‘ Well, no, not exactly that. He was coming here as McTodd 
an}’way, as far as I can gather. But I’d talked it over with him, 
you know, before that and asked him to pinch the necklace.’ 

‘Then you know him quite well? He is a friend of yours?’ 

‘1 wouldn’t say that exactly. But he said he was a great pal 
of Phyllis and her husband.’ 

‘Did he tell you that?’ 

‘Absolutely!’ 

‘When?’ 

‘In the train/ 

‘I mean, was it before or after you had told him why you 
wanted the necklace stolen?’ 

‘Eh? Let me think. After/ 

‘You’re sure?’ 

‘Yes.’ 

‘Tell me exactly what happened,’ said Eve. ‘I can’t under- 
stand It at all at present.’ 

Freddie marshalled his thoughts. 

‘Well, let’s see. Well, to start with, 1 told Uncle Joe I would 
pinch the neckLce and slip it to him, a nd he said if I did he’d give 
me a thousand quid. As a matter of fact, he made it two thou- 
sand, and very decent of him, I thought it. Is that straight?’ 

‘Yes.’ 

‘Then 1 sort of got cold feet. Began to w onder, don’t you 
know, if I hadn’t bitten off rather more than I could chew.’ 

‘Yes.’ 



Psmith Recewes Guests 


241 


‘And then I saw this advertisement in the paper/ . • 

‘Advertisement? What advertisement?* 

‘There was an advertisement in the paper saying if anybody 
wanted anything done simply apply to this chap. So I wrote 
him a letter and went up and had a talk with him in the lobby 
of the Piccadilly Palace. Only, unfortunately, I'd promised the 
guv’nor rd catch the twelve-fifty home, so I had to dash off 
in the middle. Must have thought me rather an ass, it’s some- 
times occurred to me since. I mean, practically all I said was, 
“Will you pinch ray aunt’s necklace?” and then buzzed off to 
catch the train. Ne jct thought I’d sec the man again, but when 1 
got into the five o’clock tram - 1 missed the twelve-fifty - th^^re 
he was, as large as life, and the guv’nor s uddenly trickled in from 
another compartment and introduced him to me as McTodd the 
poet. Then the guv’nor legged it, and this chap told me he 
wasn’t realty McTodd, only pretending to be McTodd.’ 

‘Didn’t that strike you as strange."* 

‘Yes, rather rummy.’ 

‘Did you ask him why he was doing such an extraordinary 
thing?’ 

‘Oh, yes. But he wouldn’t tell me. And th^ n he asked me 
why I wanted him to pinch Aunt Connie’s necklace, and it 
suddenly occurred to me that everything was working rather 
smoothly - 1 mean, him being on his way to the castle like that. 
Right on the spot, don’t you know. So I told him all about 
Phyllis, and it was then that he said that he had been a pal ot 
hers and her husband’s for years. So we fixed it up that he 
was to get the necklace and hand it ovet. 1 must say 1 was 
rather drawn to the chappie. He said Jhe didn’t want any money 
for swiping the thing.’ 

Eve laughed bitterly, 

‘Why should he, when he was going to get twenty thou- 
sand pounds’ worth of diamonds and keep them? Oh, Freddie, 
I should have thought that even you would have seen through 
him. You go to this perfect stranger and tell him that there is 
a valuable necklace waiting here to be stolen, you find him on 
his way to steal it, and you trust him implicitly just because he 

1 



24Z 


Leave it to P smith 


tells you he knows Phyllis - whom he had never heard of in 
his life till you mentioned her, Freddie, really I ’ 

The Hon. Freddie scratched his beautifully shaven chin, 

‘Well, when you put it like that,’ he said, ‘I must own it 
does sound a bit off. But he seemed such a dashed matey sort 
of bird. Cheery and all that. 1 liked the feller.’ 

‘ What nonsense ! ’ 

‘Well, but you liked him, too. I mean to say, you were about 
with him a goodish lot.’ 

‘I hate him! ’ said Eve angrily. ‘I wish I had never seen him. 
And if I let him get away with that necklace and cheat poor 
little Phyllis out of her money. I’ll — I’ll . . . ’ 

She raised a grimly determined chin to the stars. Freddie 
watched her admiringly. 

‘I say, you know, you ate a wonderful girl,’ he said. 

‘ He shan't get away with it, if 1 have to pull the place down.’ 

‘ When you chuck your head up like that you remind me a 
bit of What’s-her-name, the Famous Players star - you know, 
girl who was m “Wed to A Satyr.” Only,’ added Freddie 
hurriedly, ‘she isn’t half so pretty. I say, I was rather looking 
forward to that County Ball, but now this has happened I don’t 
mind missing it a bit. I mean, it seems to draw us closer to- 
gether somehow, if you follow me. I say, honestly, all kidding 
aside, you think that love might some day awaken in ... ’ 

‘We shall want a lamp, of course,’ said Eve. 

‘Eh?’ 

‘A lamp - to see with when we arc in the cottage. Can you 
get one?’ 

Freddie reluctantly perceived that the moment for senti- 
ment had not ariived. 

‘A lamp? Oh, yes, of course. Rather.’ 

‘Better get two,’ said Eve. ‘And meet me here about half 
an hour after everybody has gone to the ball.’ 

II 

The tiny sitting-room of Psmith’s haven of rest in the woods 
had never reached a high standard of decorativeness even in its 



V smith Receipes Guests 


245 

best days ; but as Eve paused from her labours and looked at it 
in the light of her lamp about an hour after her conversation 
with Freddie on the terrace, it presented a picture of desula« 
tion which would have startled the plain-living gamekeeper 
to whom it had once been a home. Even Freddie, though 
normally an unobservant youth, seemed awed by the rum he 
had helped to create. 

* Golly r he observed. ‘I say, weVe rather mucked the place 
up a bit!* 

It was no over-statement. Eve had come to the cottage to 
search, and she had searched thoroughly. The torn carpet lay 
in an untidy heap against the wall. The table was overturned. 
Boards had been wrenched from the floor, bricks from the 
:himney-place. The horsehair sofa was in tibbons, and the one 
small cushion in the room lay limply in a corner, its stufflng 
distributed north, south, east and west. There was soot every- 
where - on the walls, on the floor, on the fireplace, and on 
Freddie. A biace of dead bats, the further result of the latter’s 
groping in a chimney which had not been swept for seven 
months, reposed in the fender. The suting-toom had never 
been luxurious ; it was now not even cosy 

Eve did not reply. She was sltuggling with what she was 
fair-minded enough to see was an cntiiely unjust fever of iiri- 
tation, with her courteous and obliging a sistant as its object. 
It was wrong, she knew, to feel like this. That she should be 
furious at her failure to find the jewels was excusable, but she 
had no possible right to be furiou'= w’th Freddie Tt was not 
his fault that soot had poured fiom the cluinncv in lieu of dia- 
monds. If he had asked for a necklace and been given a dead 
bat, he was surely more to be pititd than censured. Yet Eve, 
eyeing his grimy face, would have given very much to have 
been able to scream loudly and throw something at him. The 
fact was, the Hon. Freddie belonged to that unfortunate type 
^ of humanity which automatically gets blamed for everything 
in moments of stress. 

‘Well, the bally thing isn’t here,’ said Freddie. He spoke 
thickly, as a man will whose mouth is covered with soot. 



244 Leave it to L smith 

‘I know it isn’t,’ said Eve. ‘But this isn’t the only room in 
the house.’ 

‘Think he might have hidden the stuff upstairs?’ 

‘ Or downstairs.’ 

Freddie shook his head, dislodging a portion of a third bat. 

‘ Must be upstairs, if it’s anywhere. Mean to say, there isn’t 
any downstairs.’ 

‘There’s the cellar,’ said Eve. ‘Take your lamp and go and 
have a look.’ 

For the first time in the proceedings a spirit of disaffection 
seemed to manifest itself in the bosom of her assistant. Up till 
this moment Freddie had taken his orders placidly and exe- 
cuted them with promptness and civility. Even when the first 
shower of soot had driven him choking from the fire-place, 
his manly spirit had not been crushed ; he had merely uttered 
a startled ‘Oh, I say I’ and returned gallantly to the attack. 
But now he obviously hesitated. 

‘Go on,’ said Eve impatiently. 

‘Yes, but, I say, you know . . .’ 

‘What’s the matter ?’ 

‘ T don’t think the chap would be likely to hide a necklace 
in the cellar. I vote we give it a miss and try upstairs.’’ 

‘ Don’t be silly, Freddie. He may have hidden it anywhere.’ 

‘ Well, to be absolutely honest. I’d much rather not go into 
any bally cellar, if it’s all the same to you.’ 

‘Why ever not?’ 

‘Beetles, Always had a horror of beetles. Ever since I was a 
kid.’ 

Eve bit her lip. She was feeling, as Miss Peavey had so often 
felt when associated in some delicate undertaking with Ed- 
ward Cootes, that exasperating sense of man’s inadequacy 
which comes to high-spirited girls at moments such as these. 
To achieve the end for which she had started out that night' 
she would have waded w^aist-high through a sea of beetles. 
But, divining with that sixth sense which tells women when the 
male has been pushed just so far and can be pushed no farther, 
that Freddie, wax though he might be in her hands in any 



Psmith Receives Guests 


M5 

pther circumstances, was on this one point adamant, she made 
QO further effort to bend him to her will. 

‘All right,’ she said. ^I’ll go down into the cellar. You go 
and look upstairs,’ 

‘No. I say, sure you don’t mind?’ 

Eve took up her lamp and left the craven. 


For a girl of iron resolution and unswerving purpose. Eve’s 
inspection of the cellar was decidedly cursory. A distinct feel- 
ing of relief came over her as she stood at the top of the steps 
and saw by the light of the lamp how small and bare it was. 
For, impervious as she might be to the intimidation of beetles, 
her armour still contained a chink. She was terribly afraid of 
rats. And even when the rays of the lamp disclosed no scuttling 
horrors^ she still lingered for a moment before descending. 
You never knew with rats. They pretended not to be there just 
to lure you on, and then came out and whizzed about your 
ankles. However, the memory of her scorn for Freddie’s pusil- 
lanimity forced her on, and she went dc-wn. 

The word ‘ cellar ’ is an elastic one. It can be applied equally 
to the acres of bottle-fringed vaults which lie beneath a great 
pile like Blandings Gistle and to a hole in the ground like the 
one in which she now found herself. This cellar was easily 
searched. She stamped on its stone flags with an ear strained 
to detect any note of hollowness, but none came. She moved 
the lamp so that it shone into every corner, but there was not 
even a crack in which a diamond necklace could have been 
concealed. Satisfied that the place contained nothag but a 
little coal-dust and a smell of damp decay. Eve passed thank- 
fully out. 

The law of elimination was doing its remorseless work. It 
had ruled out the cellar, the kitchen, and the living-room - 
that is to say, the whole of the lower of the two floors which 
made up the cottage. There now remained only the rooms up- 
stairs, There were probably not more tlian two, and Freddie 
must already have searched one of these. The quest seemed to 



Leave it to P smith 


246 

be nearing its end. As Eve made for the narrow staircase that 
led to the second floor, the lamp shook in her hand and cast 
weird shadows. Now that success was in sight, the strain was 
beginning to affect her nerves. 

It was to nerves that in the first instant of hearing it she 
attributed what sounded like a soft cough in the sitting-room, 
a few feet from where she stood. Then a chill feeling of dismay 
gripped her. It could oxily, she thought, be Freddie, returned 
from his search ; and if Freddie had returned from his search 
already, what could it mean except that those upstairs rooms, 
on which she had counted so confidently, had proved as empty 
as the others? Freddie was not one of your restrained, un- 
emotional men. If he had found the necklace he would have 
been downstairs in two bounds, shouting. His silence was 
ominous. She opened the door and went quickly in. 

‘ Freddie,’ she began, and broke off with a gasp 

It was not Freddie who had coughed. It was Psmith, He was 
seated on the remains of the horsehair sofa, toying with an 
automatic pistol and gravely surveying through his monocle 
the ruins of a home. 


Ill 

‘Good evening,’ said Psmith. 

It was not for a philosopher like himself to display astonish- 
ment. He was, however, undeniably feeling it. When, a few 
minutes before, he had encountered Freddie in this same room, 
he had received a distinct shock; but a rough theory which 
would account for Freddie’s presence in his home-from-home 
he had been able to work out. He groped in va:n for one which 
would explain Eve. 

Mere suxprise, however, was never enough to prevent 
Psmith talking. He began at once. 

‘It was nice of you,’ he said, rising courteously, ‘to look in. 
Won’t you sit down? On the sofa, perhaps? Or would you 
prefer a brick?’ 

Eve was not yet equal to speech, She had been so firmly con- 
vinced that he was ten miles away at Shifley that his presence 



Psmitb Receives Guests 


247 

here in the sitting-room of the cottage had something of the 
breath-taking quality of a miracle. The explanation, if she 
could have known it, was simple. Two excellent reasons had 
kept Psmith from gracing the County Ball with his dignified 
support. In the first place, as Shifley was only four miles from 
the village where he had spent most of his life, he had regarded 
it as probable, if not certain, that he would have encountered 
ther^ old friends to whom it would have been both tedious and 
embarrassing to explain why he had changed his name to 
McTodd. And secondly, though he had not actually antici- 
pated a nocturnal raid on his little nook, he had thought it 
well to be on the premises that evening in case Mr Edward 
Cootes should have been getting ideas into his head. As soon, 
therefore, as the casrle had emptied itself and the wheels of the 
last car had passed away down the drive, he had pocketed Mr 
Cootes’s revolver and proceeded to the cottage. 

Eve recovered her self-possession. She was not a girl given 
to collapse in moments of crisis. The first shock of amazement 
had passed ; a humiliating feeling of extreme foolishness, which 
came directly after, had also passed ; she was now grimly ready 
for battle. 

* Where is Mr Threepwood?* she asked. 

‘Upstairs, I have put him in storage for a while. Do not 
worry about Comrade Threepwood. lie has lots to think about. 
He is under the impression that if he stirs out he will be in- 
stantly shot.’ 

‘Oh? Well, I want to put this lamp down. Will you please 
pick up that table?’ 

‘By all means. But - 1 am a novice in these matters - ought 
I not first to say “Hands upl” or something?’ 

‘\\ ill you please pick up that table?' 

‘A friend of mine - one Cootes - you must meet him some 
time - generally remarks “Hey I” in a sharp, arresting voice 
on these occasions. Personally I consider the expression too 
abrupt. Still, he has had great experience . . . ’ 

‘ CCill you please pick up that table?' 

*Most certainly. I lake it, then, that you would prefer to 



Leave it to ^ smith 


24S 

dispense with the usual formalities. In that case, I will park 
this revolver on the mantelpiece while we chat. I have tal^n a 
curious dislike to the thing. It makes me feel like Dangerous 
Dan McGrew.^ 

Eve put down the lamp, and there was silence for a moment, 
Psmith looked about him thoughtfully. He picked up one of 
the dead bats and covered it with his handkerchief. 

‘ Somebody’s mother,’ he murmured reverently. 

Eve sat down on the sofa. 

‘Mr . . .’ She stopped. ‘I can’t call you Mr McTodd. Will 
you please teU me your name?’ 

‘ Ronald,’ said Psmith. ‘Ronald Eustace.’ 

‘I suppose you have a surname:"’ snapped Eve. ‘Or an 
alias?’ 

Psmith eyed her with a pained expression. 

‘I may be hyper-sensitive,’ he said, ‘but that last remark 
sounded to me like a dirty dig. You seem to imply that I am 
some sort of criminal.’ 

Eve laughed shortly. 

‘ Fm sorry if I hurt your feelings. There’s not much sense in 
pietending now, is there? What is your name?’ 

‘Psmith. The p is silent.’ 

‘ Well, Mr Smith, I imagine you understand why I am here?* 

‘ I took it for granted that you had come to fulfil your kindly 
promise of doing the place up a bit. Will you be wounded if I 
say frankly that 1 preferred it the way it was before? All this 
may be the last word in ultra-modern interior decoration, but 
I suppose I am old-fashioned. The whisper flics round Shrop- 
shire and adjoining counties, “Psmith is hide-bound. He is not 
attuned to up-to-date methods.” Honestly, don’t you think 
you have rather unduly stressed the biTiarre note? This soot 
. . . these dead bats ’ 

‘ T have romc to get that necklace.’ 

‘Ah! The necklace!’ 

‘I’m going to get it, too.’ 

Psmith shook his head gently. 

‘There,’ he said, ‘if you will pardon me, I take issue with 



Psmitb deceives Guests 


249 

you. Thete is nobody to whom I would rather give that neck- 
lace than you, but there are special circumstances connected 
with it which render such an action impossible. I fancy. Miss 
Halliday, that you have been misled by your young friend up- 
stairs. No; let me speak/ he said, raising a hand. ‘You know 
what a treat it is to me. The way I envisage the matter is thus, 
I still cannot understand as completely as I could wish how 
you come to be mixed up in the affair, but it is plain that in 
some way or other Comrade Threepwood has enlisted your 
services, and I regret to be obliged to inform you that the 
motives animating him in this quest are not pure. To put it 
crisply, he is engaged in what Comrade Cootes, to whom I 
alluded just now, would call “funny business”.^ 

‘I . . 

‘Pardon me,* said Psnriith. ‘If you will be patient for a few 
minutes mo^e, I shall have finished and shall then be delighted 
to lend an attentive ear to any remarks you may wish to make. 
As it occurs to me - indeed, you hinted as much yourself just 
now - that my own position in this little matter has an appear- 
ance which to the uninitiated might seem tolerably rummy, I 
had better explain how 1 come to be guarding a diamond neck- 
lace which does not belong to me. I rely on your womanly 
discretion ti.> let the thing go no further/ 

‘Will you please , . 

‘In one moment. The facts arc as follows. Our mutual 
friend Mr Kecble, Miss Halliday, has a step-daughter who is 
married to one Comrade Jackson who, if he had no other 
claim to fame, would go ringing down through history for 
this reason, that he and I were at school together and that he 
is my best friend. We two have sported on the green - ooh, a 
lot 01 times. Well, owing to one thing and another, the Jack- 
son family is rather badly up against it at the present . • 

Eve jumped up angrily. 

‘I don*t believe a word of it,’ she cried. ‘What is the use of 
trying to fool me like this? You had never heard of Phyllis 
before Freddie spoke about her in the train . . / 

‘Believe me . . 



250 


L^ave it to T smith 


‘I won’t. Freddie got you down here to help him steal that 
necklace and give it to Mr Keeblc so that he could help Phyllis, 
and now youVe got it and are trying to keep it for yourself/ 

Psmith started slightly. His monocle fell from its place, 

‘Is everybody in this little plot! Are you also one of Comra i 
Keeble’s corps of assistants?’ 

‘ Mr Kceble asked me to try to get the necklace for him/ 

Psmith replaced his monocle thoughtfully. 

‘ This/ he said, ‘ opens up a new line of thought. Can it t 
that I have been wronging Comrade Threepwood all this tin ? 
I must confess that, when 1 found him here just row standing 
like a Marius among the ruins of Carthage (the allusion is a 
classical rme, and the fruit of an expensive education), I jumped 
- 1 may say, sprang - to the conclusion that he was endeavour- 
ing to double-cross both myself and the boss by getting hold 
of the necklace with a view to retaining it for his own benefit. 
It never occurred to me that he might be ct editing me with the 
same sinful guile.’ 

Eve ran to him and clutched liL arm. 

‘Mr Smith, is this really true? Are you really a friend of 
Phyllis?’ 

‘ She looks on me as a grandfather. A* t^yo» a friend of hers?’ 

‘We were at school together/ 

‘This/ said Psmith cordially, ‘is one of tlic most gratifying 
moments of my life. It makes us all seem like one great big 
family.’ 

‘But T never heard Ph)lUs speak about you/ 

‘ Strange ! ’ said Smith. ‘ Strange. Sui ely she was not ashamed 
of her humble friend?’ 

‘Her what?’ 

‘I must explain,’ said Psmith, ‘that until recently I was earn- 
ing a difficult livelihood by slinging fish about in Billingsgate 
Market. It is possilde that some snobbish strain in Comrade 
Jackson’s bride, which I confess I had not suspected, kept her 
from admitting that she was accustomed . o hob-nob with one 
in the fish business.’ 

‘Good gracious!’ cried Eve. 



P smith Keceives Guests 


251 

‘I beg your pardon?’ 

‘ Smith • . . Fish business * . • Why, it was you who called at 
Phyllis’s house while I was there. Just before I came down 
here. 1 remember Phyllis saying how sorry she was that we had 
not met. She said you were just my sort of . . . I mean, she said 
she wanted me to meet you.’ 

‘This/ said Psmith, ‘is becoming mote and more gratifying 
every moment. It seems to me that you and I were made for 
each other. 1 am your best friend’s best friend and we both have 
a taste for stealing other people’s jewellery. 1 cannot see how 
you can very well ^esist the conclusion that we are twin-souls.^ 

‘Don’t be silly.’ 

‘ We shall get into that series of “ I lusbands and Wives ho 
W()rk Together”.’ 

‘Where is the necklace?’ 

Psmith sighed. 

‘ The business note. Always the business note. Can’t we keep 
all that till later?’ 

‘No. We can’t/ 

‘Ah, well!’ 

Psmith crossed the room, and took down from the wall the 
case of stuffed birds. 

‘The one place,’ said F.ve, with mortification, ‘where we 
didn’t think of looking!’ 

Psmith opened the case and remov'ed the centre bird, a de- 
pressed-looking fowl with glass eyes which stared with a 
haunting pathos. He felt in us intenor and pulled out some- 
thing that glittered and sparkled in the lamp-light. 

‘Ohl’ 

Eve ran her fingers almost lovingly through the jewels as 
they lay before her on the little table. 

‘Aren’t they beautiful!’ 

‘Distinctly. T think I may say that of all the jewels I have 
ever stolen . . . ’ 

‘HEYl’ 

Eve let the necklace fall with a cry. Psmith spun round. In 
the doorway stood Mr Edward Cootes, pointing a pistol. 



Leave it to Psmith 


ZJ2 


IV 

‘Hands up! * said Mr Cootes with the uncouth cuttness of one 
who had not had the advantages of a refined home and a nice 
upbringing. He advanced warily, preceded by the revolver. It 
was a dainty, miniature weapon, such as might have been the 
property of some gentle lady. Mr Cootes had, in fact, bor- 
rowed it from Miss Peavey, who at this juncture entered the 
room in a black and silver dinner-dress surmounted by a Rose 
du Barri wrap, her spiritual face glowing softly in the subdued 
light, 

‘Attaboy, Ed,’ observed Miss Peavey crisply. 

She swooped on the table and gathered up the necklace. 
Mr Cootes, though probably gratified by the tribute, made no 
acknowledgement of it, but continued to direct an austere 
gaze at Eve and Psmith. 

‘No funny business,’ he advised; 

‘I would be the last person,’ said Psmith agreeably, ‘to ad- 
vocate anything of the sort. This,’ he said to Eve, ‘is Comrade 
Cootes, of whom you have heard so much.’ 

Eve was staring, bewildered, at the poetess, who, satisfied 
with the manner in which the preliminaries had been con- 
ducted, had begun looking about her with idle curiosity. 

‘ Miss Peavey 1 ’ cried Eve. Of all the events of this eventful 
night the appearance of Lady Constance’s emotional friend in 
the role of criminal was the most disconcerting. ‘Miss PeavejV 

‘Hallo?’ responded that lady agreeably. 

‘I . . . I . . .’ 

‘ What, I think. Miss Halliday is trying to say,’ c at in Psmith, 
‘is that she is finding it a little difficult to adjust her mind to 
the present development, I, too, must confess myself some- 
what at a loss. I knew, of course, that Comrade Cootes had - 
shall I say an acquisitive streak in him, but you I had always 
supposed to be one hundred per cent soul - and snowy white 
at that.’ 

‘Yeah?’ said Miss Peavey, but faintly interested. 

‘I imagined that you were a poetess.’ 



Psmith Receives Guests 


^53 

® So I am a poetess/ retorted Miss Peavey hotly. ‘Just you 
start in joshing my poems and see how quick I'll bean you 
with a brick. Well, Ed, no sense in sticking around here. Let's 

‘We’ll have to tie these birds up/ said Mr Cootes. ‘Other- 
wise we’ll have them squealing before I can make a getaway.' 

‘ Ed/ said Miss Peavey with the scorn which her colleague 
so often excited in her, ‘try to remember sometimes that that 
thing balanced on your collar is a head, not a bubbard squash. 
And be careful what you’re doing with that gat! Waving it 
about like it was a bouquet or Sf»methjng. How are they going 
to squeal.^ They can’t say a thing without telling everyone they 
snitched the stuff first.’ 

‘That’s right/ admitted Mr Cootes. 

‘Well, then, don’t come butting in.’ 

The silence into which this rebuke plunged Mr Cootes gave 
Psmith the opportunity to resume speech. An opportunity of 
which he was glad, for, while he had nothing of definitely vital 
import to say, he was optimist enough to feel that his only 
hope of recovering the necklace was tu keep the conversation 
going on the chance of something turning up Afiable though 
his manner was, he had never lost sight of the fact that one 
leap would take him across the space of floor separating him 
from Mr Cootes. At present, that small but effective revolver 
precluded anything in the nature of leaps, however bhort, but 
if in the near future anything occurred to divert his adver- 
sary's vigilance even momentarily. ... He pursued a policy of 
watchful waiting, and in the meantime started to talk again. 

‘If, before you go/ he said, ‘you can spare us a moment of 
your valuable time, I should be glad of a few words. And, first, 
may 1 say that 1 cordially agree with your condemnation of 
Comrade Cootes’s recent suggestion. The man is an ass.’ 

‘Say I’ cried Mr Cootes, coming to life again, ‘that’ll be 
about all from you. If there wasn’t ladies present, I’d bust you 
one.’ 

"Ed/ said Miss Peavey with quiet authority, ‘shut your 
trapl* 



Ijsave it to F smith 


254 

Mr Cootes subsided once more. Psmith gazed at him 
through his monocle, interested. 

‘Pardon me,’ he said, ‘but - if it is not a rude question -are 
you two married?* 

‘Eh?* 

‘ You seemed to me to talk to him like a wife. Am I address- 
ing Mrs Cootes?* 

‘You will be if you stick around a while,* 

‘A thousand congratulations to Comrade Cootes. Not quite 
so many to you, possibly, but fully that number of good 
wishes.* He moved towards the poetess with extended hand. 
‘1 am thinking of getting married myself shortly.* 

‘Keep those hands up,’ said Mr Cootes. 

‘Surely,* said Psmith reproachfully, ‘these conventions need 
not be observed among friends? You will find the only revol- 
ver I have ever possessed over there on the mantelpiece. Go 
and look at it.* 

‘ Yes, and have you jumping on my back the moment I took 
my eyes off you!* 

‘ There is a suspicious vein in your nature. Comrade Cootes,* 
sighed Psmith, ‘which I do not like to see. Fjght against it.* 
He turned to Miss Pcavey once more. ‘To lesume a pleasanter 
topic, you will let me know where to send the plated fish-slice, 
won’t you?* 

‘ 1 luh? * said the lady. 

‘I was hoping,* proreeded Psmith, ‘if you do not think it a 
libe*‘ty on the part of one who has known you but a short 
time, to be allowed to send you a small wedding -present in due 
season. And one of these days, perhaps, when 1 too am mar- 
ried, you and Comrade Cocoes will come and visit us in our 
little home. You will receive a hearty, unaffected welcome. 
You must not be offended if, just before you say good-bye, we 
count the spof ns.* 

One would scarcely have supposed Miss P^avcv a sensitive 
woman, yet at this remark an ominous fr< clouded her 
white forehead. Her careless amiability seemed to wane. She 
raked Psmith with a glittering eye. 



P smith Rtceives Guests 


^55 

‘ You^re talking a dam’ lot,’ she observed coidly. 

*Aii old failing of mine,’ said Psmith apologetically, ‘and 
one concerning which there have been numerous complaints. 
1 see now that I* have been boring you, and 1 hope that you 
will allow me to express . , 

He broke off abruptly, not because he had reached the end 
of his remarks, but because at this moment there came from 
above their heads a sadden sharp cracking sound, and almost 
simultaneously a shower of plaster fell from the ceiling, fol- 
lowed by the startling appearance of a long, shapely leg, which 
remained waggling in space. And from somewhere out of sight 
there filtered dowm a sharp and agoni 2 ed fjath. 

Time and neglect had done their work with the f ooring of 
the room in which Psmith had bestowed the Hon. Freddie 
Threepwood, and, creeping cautiously about in the dark, he 
had had the misfortune to go through. 

But, as so often happens in this life, the misfortune of one 
is the good fortune of another. Badly as the accident had shaken 
Freddie, from the point of view of Psmith ii w’as almost ideal. 
The sudden appearance of a human leg through the ceiling at 
a moment of nervous tension is enough to unman the stoutest- 
hearted, and Edward Cootes made no attempt to conceal his 
perturbation. Leaping a clear six inches from the door, he 
jerked up his head and quite uiunteniionally pulled the trigger 
of his revolver. A bullet ripped thiough the plaster. 

The leg disappeared. Not for an insunt since he had been 
shut in that upper reborn had Freddie Threepwood ceased to 
be mindful of Psmilh’s parting statement tliat he would be 
shot if he tried tc:> escape, and Mr Cootes’ bullet sc 'med to him 
a dramatic fulfilment of that piomise. Wrenching his leg with 
painful energy out of the abyss, he proceeded to execute a 
backward spring which took him to tlic far wall — ac which 
pednt, as it was impossible to gel any farther away from the 
centre of events, he was compelled to halt nis retreat. Having 
rolled himself up into as small a ball as he could manage, he 
sat where he was, trying not to breathe. His momentary inten- 
tion of explaining through the hole that the entire tiling had 



Leave it to Psmth 


256 

been a regrettable accident, he prudently abandoned. Unintel- 
ligent though he had often proved himself in other crises of his 
life, he had the sagacity now to realize that the neighbourhood 
of the hole was unhealthy and should be avoided. So, preserv- 
ing a complete and unbroken silence, he crouched there in the 
darkness, only asking to be left alone. 

And it seemed, as the moments slipped by, that this modest 
wish was to be gratified. Noises and the sound of voices came 
up to him from the room below, but no more bullets. It would 
be paltering with the truth to say that this put him completely 
at his ease, but still it was something. Freddie’s pulse began to 
return to the mormal. 

Mr Cootes’, on the other hand, was beating with a danger- 
ous quickness. Swift and objectionable things had been hap- 
pening to Edward Cootes in that lower room. His first im- 
pression was that the rift in the plaster above him had been 
instantly followed by the collapse of the entire ceiling, but this 
was a mistaken idea. All that had occurred was that Psmith, 
finding Mr Cootes’ eye and pistol functioning in another direc- 
tion, had sprung forward, snatched up a chair, hit the unfor- 
tunate man over the head Vith it, relieved him of his pistol, 
leaped to the mantelpiece, removed the revolver which lay 
there, and now, holding both weapons in an attitude of men- 
ace, was regarding him censoriously through a gleaming eye- 
glass. 

‘No funny business. Comrade Cootes,’ said Psmith. 

Mr Cootes picked himself up painfully. His head was sing- 
ing. He looked at the revolvers, blinked, opened his mouth 
and shut it again. He was oppressed with a sense of defeat. 
Nature had not built him for a man of violence. Peaceful mani- 
pulation of a pack of cards in the smoke-room of an Atlantic 
liner was a thing he understood and enjoyed: rough-and- 
tumble encounters were alien to him and distasteful. As far as 
Mr Cootes was concerned, the war was over. 

But Miss Peavey was a woman of spirit. . ier hat was still in 
the ring. She clutched the necklace in a grasp of steel, and her 
fine eyes glared defiance. ' 



P smith Receives Guests 


257 


‘You think yourself smart, don’t you?* she said. 

Psmith eyed her commiseratingly. Her valorous attitude ap- 
pealed to him. Nevertheless, business was business. 

am afraid,’ he said regretfully, ‘that I must trouble you 
to hand over that necklace.’ 

‘Try and get it,’ said Miss Peavey. 

Psmith looked hurt. 

‘I am a child in these matters,* he said, ‘but I had always 
gathered that on these occasions the wishes of the man behind 
the gun were automatically respected.* 

‘Til call your bluff,’ said Miss Peavey firmly. ‘I’m going to 
walk straight out of here with this collection of ice right now, 
and ril bet you won’t have the nerve to start any shooting 
Shoot a woman? Not youT 
Psmith nodded gravely. 

‘ Your knowledge of psychology is absolutely correct. Your 
trust in my sense of chivalry rests on solid ground. But,’ he 
proceeded, cheering up, ‘I fancy that I see a way out of the 
difficulty. An idea has been vouchsafed to me. I shall shoot - 
not you, but Comrade Cootes, This will dispose of all un- 
pleasantness. If you attempt to edge out through that door I 
shall immediately proceed to plug Comrade Cootes in the leg. 
At least, I shall try. I am a poor shot and may hit him in some 
more vital spot, but at least he will have the consolation of 
knowing that I did my best and meant well.* 

‘Hey!’ cried Mr Cootes. And never, in a life liberally em- 
bellished with this favourite ejaculation of his, had he uttered 
it more feelingly. He shot a feverish glance at Miss Peavey; 
and, reading in her face indecision rather than that instant ac- 
quiescence which he had hoped to see, cast off his customary 
attitude of respectful humility and asserted himself. He was no 
cave-man, but this was one occasion when he meant to have 
his own way. With an agonized bound he reached Miss Pea- 
vey’s side, wrenched the necklace from her grasp and flung it 
into the enemy’s camp Eve stooped and picked it up, 

H thank you,’ said Psmith with a brief bow in her direction.' 
Miss Peavey breathed heavily. Her strong hands clenched 



Leope it to 1? smith 


^58 

and unclenched. Between her parted lips her teeth showed in a 
thin white line. Suddenly she swallowed quickly, as if draining 
a glass of unpalatable medicine. 

‘ Well/ she said in a low, even voice, ‘that seems to be about 
all. Guess we’ll be going. Come along, Ed, pick up the 
Henries.’ 

‘Coming, Liz,’ replied Mr Cootes humbly. 

They passed together into the night. 


Silence followed their departure. Eve, weak with the reaction 
from the complex emotions which she had undergone since 
her arrival at the cottage, sat on the battered sofa, her chin 
resting in her hands. She looked at Psmith, who, humming a 
light air, was delicately piling with the toe of his shoe a funeral 
mound over the second of the dead bats. 

‘ So that’s that ! ’ she said. 

Psmith looked up with a bright and friendly smile. 

‘You have a very happy gift of phrase,’ he said. ‘That, as 
you sensibly say, is that.’ 

Eve was silent for a while. Psmith completed the obsequies 
and stepped back with the air of a man who has done what he 
can for a fallen friend. 

‘Fancy Miss Peavey being a thief I ’ said Eve. She was some- 
how feeling a disinclination to allow the conversation to die 
down, and yet she had an idea that, unless it was permitted to 
die down, it might become embarrassingly intimate. Sub- 
consciously, she was endeavouring to analyse her views on 
this long, calm person who had so recently added himself to 
the list of those who claimed to look upon her with affection. 

‘I confess it came as something of a shock to me also,’ said 
Psmith. ‘ In fact, the revelation that there was this other, deeper 
side to her nature materially altered the opinion I had formed 
of her. I found myself warming to Miss Peavey. Something 
that was akin to respect began to stir wirliin me. Indeed, I 
almost vrish that we had not been compelled to deprive her of 
the jewels.’ 



T? smith Remtfes Guests 


Z59 


said Eve. ‘Tm afraid I didn’t do much/ 

‘Your attitude was exactly right/ Psmith assured her, ‘You 
afforded just the moral support which a man needs in such a 
crisis.’ 

Silence fell once more. Eve returned to her thoughts. And 
then, with a suddenness which surprised her, she found that 
she had made up her mind. 

‘So you’re going to be married?’ she said. 

Psmith polished his monocle thoughtfully. 

‘I think so/ he said. ‘I think so. What do you think?’ 

Eve regarded him steadfastly. Then she gave a little 
laugh. 

‘ Yes/ she said, ‘I think so, too/ She paused. ‘ Shall I tell you 
something?’ 

‘You could tell me nothing more wonderful than that.’ 

‘When T met Cynthia in Market Blandings, she told me what 
the trouble was which made her husband leave her. What do 
you suppose it was?’ 

‘From my brief acquaintance with Comrade McTodd, I 
would hazard the guess that he tried to stab her with the bread- 
knife. He struck me as a murderous-looking specimen.’ 

‘They had some people to dinner, and there was chicken, 
and Cynthia gave all the giblets to the guests, and her husband 
botmded out of his scat with a wild cn\ and, shouting “You 
^ow I love those things better than anything in the world!” 
rushed from the house, never to return!’ 

‘Precisely how I would have wdshed him to rush, had I been 
Mrs McTodd.’ 

‘Cynthia told me that he had rushed from the house, never 
to return, six times since they were married.’ 

‘May 1 mention - in passing - ’ said Psmith, ‘that I do not 
like chicken giblets?’ 

‘Cynthia advised me,’ proceeded Eve, ‘if ever I married, to 
marry someone eccentric. She said it was such fun . • . Well, I 
don’t suppose I am ever likely to meet anyone more eccentric 
than you, am I?’ 

‘I think you would be unwise to wait on the chance/ 



Leave it to ^ smith 


z6o 

*The only thing is . . said Eve reflectively. Mrs Smith** 
... It doesn't sound much, does it?* 

Psmith beamed encouragingly. 

We must look into the future/ he said. ^We must remem- 
ber that I am only at the beginning of what I am convinced 
is to be a singularly illustrious career. “Lady Psmith” is better 
. . . “Baroness Psmith” better still . . . And - who knows? - 
“The Duchess of Psmith” . . .* 

‘Well, anyhow/ said Eve, ‘you were wonderful just now, 
simply wonderful. The way you made one spring . . •* 

‘Your words,’ said Psmith, ‘are music to my ears, but we 
must not forget that the foundations of the success of the 
manoeuvre were laid by Comrade Threepwood. Had it not 
been for the timely incursion of his leg ... * 

‘Good gracious!’ cried Eve. ‘Freddie! I had forgotten all 
about him 1 ’ 

‘The right spirit/ said Psmith. ‘Quite the right spirit.’ 

‘ We must go and let him out.’ 

‘Just as you say^ And then he can come with us on the stroll 
I was about to propose that we should take through the woods. 
It is a lovely nighr^ and what could be jollier than to have 
Comrade Threepwood prattling at our side? I will go and let 
him out at once.’ 

‘No, don’t bother,’ said Eve. 



CHAPTER 14 


^smith oAccepts Smplojmnt 

a -i HE golden stillness of a perfect summer morning brooded 
- over Blandings Castle and its adjacent pleasure-grounds. 
From a sky of unbroken blue the sun poured down its hearten- 
ing rays on all those roses, pinks, pansies, carnations, holly- 
hocks, columbines, larkspurs, London pride, and Canterbury 
bells which made the gardens so rarely beautiful. Flannelled 
youths and maidens in white serge sported in the shade ; gay 
cries arose from the tennis-courts behind the shrubbery; and 
birds, bees, and butterflies went about their business with a 
new energy and zip. In short, the casual observer, assuming 
that he was addicted to trite phrases, would have said that 
happiness reigned supreme. 

But happiness, even on the finest mornings, is seldom uni- 
versal. The strolling youths and maidens were happy ; the ten- 
nis-players were happy; the birds, bees, and butterflies were 
happy. Eve, walking in pleasant meditation on the terrace, was 
happy. Freddie Threepwood was happy as he lounged in the 
smoking-room and gloated over the information, received 
from Psmith in the small hours, that his thousand pounds was 
safe. Mr Keeble, writing to Phyllis to inform her that she 
might clinch the purchase of the Lincolnshire farm, was happy. 
Even Head-gardener Angus McAllister was a*? happy as a 
Scotsman can ever be. But Lord Emsworth, drooping out of 
the library window, felt only a nervous irritation more in keep- 
ing with the blizzards of winter than with the ordy fine July 
that England had known in the last ten years. 

We have seen his lordship in a similar attitude and a like 
frame of mind on a previous occasion; but then his melan- 
choly had been due to the loss of Lis glasses. This morning 
these were perched firmly on his nose and he saw all things 

261 



z6z Leave it to Psmith 

clearly. What was causing his gloom now was the fact that 
some ten minutes earlier his sister Constance had trapped him 
in the library, full of jarring rebuke on the subject of the dis- 
missal of Rupeit Baxter, the world’s most efficient secretary. 
It was to avoid her compelling eye that Lord Emsworth had 
turned to the window. And what he saw from that window 
thrust him even deeper into the abyss of gloom. The sun, the 
birds, the bees, the butterflies, and the flowers called to him to 
come out and have the time of his life, but he just lacked the 
nerve to make a dash for it. 

‘I think you must be mad,’ said Lady Constance bitterly, 
resuming her remarks and starting at the point where she had 
begun before. 

‘Baxter’s mad,’ retorted his lordship, also re-treading old 
ground. 

‘You are too absurd 

‘He threw flower-pots at me.’ 

‘Do please stop talking about those flower-pots. Mr Baxter 
has explained the whole thing to me, and surely even you can 
see that his behaviour was perfectly excusable.’ 

‘I don’t like the fellow,’ cried Lord Emsworth, once more 
retreating to his last line of trenches - the one line from which all 
Lady Constance’s eloquence had been unable to diskjdge him. 

There was a silence, as there had been a short while before 
when the discussion had reached this same point. 

‘You will be helpless without him,’ said Lady Constance. 

‘Nothing of the kind,’ said his lordship, 

‘You know you will. Where will you evci get anoiher 
secretary capable of looking after everything like Mr Baxter? 
You know you are a perfect child, and unless you have 
someone whom you can trust to manage your affairs I cannot 
sec what will happen.’ 

Lord Emsworth made no reply. He merely gazed wanly 
from the window. 

‘Chaos,’ moaned Lady Constance. 

His lordship remained mute, but now there was a gleam of 
something approaching pleasure in his pale eyes ; for at this 



P smith Accepts E^mplojment ^63 

moment a car rounded the corner of the house from the direction 
of the stables and stood purring at the door. There was a trunk 
on the car and a suit-case. And almost simultaneously the Effi- 
cient Baxter entered the library, clothed and spatted for travel. 

have come to say good-bye. Lady Constance,’ said Baxter 
coldly and precisely, flashing at his late employer through his 
spectacles a look of stern reproach. ‘The car which is taking 
me to the station is at the door.’ 

‘Oh, Mr Baxter.’ Lady Constance, strong woman though 
she was, fluttered with distress. ‘Oh, Mr Baxter.’ 

‘Good-bye.’ He gripped her hand in brief farewell and 
directed his spectacles for another tense instant upon the sag- 
ging figure at the w'indow. ‘Good-bye, Lord Emsworlh.’ 

‘Eh? What? OhI Ah, yes. Good-bye, my dear fel - , I mean, 
good-bye. I - er - hope you will have a pleasant journey.’ 

‘Thank you,’ said Baxter. 

‘But, Mr Baxter,’ said Lady Constance, 

‘Lord Emsworth,’ said the ex-secretary, icily, ‘I am no 
longer in your employment . . .* 

‘But, Mr Baxter,’ moaned Lady Constance, ‘surely . . . even 
now . . . misunderstanding . . . talk it all o^’cr quietly . . 

Lord Emsworth started violently. 

‘Here I’ he protested, in much the same manner as that m 
which the recent Mr Cootes had been wont to say ‘ 1 ley 1’ 

‘ I fear it is too late/ said Baxter, to his inlinite relief, ‘to talk 
things over. My arrangements are abeady made and cannot be 
altered. Ever since 1 came here to work for Lord Emsw^orth, 
my former employer - an American millionaiie named Jevons 
— has been making me flattering otft'rs to return to him. Until 
now a mistaken sense of loyalty has kept me from accepting 
these offers, but this morning 1 telegraphed to Mr Jevons to 
say tliat I was at liberty and could j^^iin him at once. It is too 
late now to cancel this promise.’ 

‘Quite, quite, oh certainly, quite, mustn’t dream of it, my 
dear fellow. No, no, no, indeed no,’ said Lord Etnsw'octh with 
an effervescent cordiality which struck both his hearers as in 
the most dubious taste. 



Leave if to ^ smith 


264 

Baxter merely stiffened haughtily, but Lady O^nstance was so 
poignantly affected by the words and the joyous tone in which 
they were uttered that she could endure her brother's loathly so- 
ciety no longer. Shaking Baxter's hand once more and gazing 
stonily for a moment at the worm by the window, she left the 
room. 

For some seconds after she had gone, there was silence - a 
silence which Lord Ems worth found embarrassing. He turned 
to the window again and took in with one wistful glance the 
roses, the pinks, the pansies, the carnations, the hollyhocks, 
the columbines, the larksputs, the London pride, and the Can- 
terbury bells. And then suddenly there came to him the realiza- 
tion that with Lady Constance gone there no longer existed 
any reason why he should stay cooped up in this stuffy library 
on the finest morning that had ever been sent to gladden the 
heart of man. He shivered ecstatically from the top of his bald 
head to the soles of his roomy shoes, and, bounding gleefully 
from the window, started to amble across the room. 

*Lord Emsworthl* 

His lordship halted. His was a one-track mind, capable of 
accommodating only one thought at a time - if that, and he 
had almost forgotten that Baxter was still there. He eyed his 
late secretary peevishly. 

‘Yes, yes.^ Is there anything . . .?* 

‘I should like to speak to you for a moment/ 

‘T have a most imponant conference with McAllister . . .^ 

‘ 1 will not detain you long. Lord Eras worth, 1 am no longer in 
your employment, but I think it my duty to say before I go ^ 

‘ No, no, my dear fellow, I quite understand. Quite, quite, 
quite. Constance has been going over all that. I know what you 
are trying to say. That matter of the flower-pots. Please do not 
apologize. It is quite all right. I was startled at the time, I own, 
but no doubt you had excellent motives. Let u& forget the 
whole affair.' 

Baxter ground an impatient heel into the c arpet. 

‘I had no intention of referring to the matter to which you 
allude/ he said. ‘I merely wished . . / 



Psm/b Accepts Employment Z65 

* Yes, yes, of course/ A vagrant breeze floated in at the win- 
dow, languid with summer scents, and Lord Emsworth, snifling, 
shuffled restlessly. ‘Of course, of course, of course. Some other 
time, eh? Yes, yes, that will be capital. Capital, capital, cap - * 

The Efficient Baxter uttered a sound that was partly a cry, 
partly a snort. Its quality was so arresting that Lord Ems- 
worth paused, his fingers on the door-handle, and peered back 
at him, startled. 

^Very well,^ said Baxter shortly. 'Pray do not let me keep 
you. If you are not interested in the fact that Blandings Castle 
is sheltering a criminal * 

It was not easy to divert Lord Emsworth when in quest of 
Angus McAllister, but this remark succeeded in doing so. 
He let go of the door-handle and came back a step or two into 
the room. 

'Sheltering a criminal?* 

' Yes.^ Baxter glanced at his watch. 'I must go now or I shall 
miss my train,’ he said curtly. ‘ I was merely going to fell you 
that this fellow who calls himself Ralston McTodd is not 
Ralston McTodd at all.* 

‘Not Ralston McTodd?* repeated his lordship blankly. 
‘But-* He suddenly perceived a flaw in the argument. ‘But 
he said he was,’ he pointed out cleverly. ‘Yes, I remember dis- 
tinctly. He said he was McTodd.’ 

‘ He is an impostor. And I imagine that if you investigate 
you will find that it is he and his accomplices who stole Lady 
Constance’s necklace.* 

‘ But, my dear fellow . . . ’ 

Baxter walked briskly to the door. 

'You need not take my word for it,' he said. ‘ What I say can 
easily be proved. Get this so-called McTodd to write his name 
on a piece of paper and then compare it with the signature to 
the letter which the real McTodd wrote when accepting Lady 
Constance’s invitation to the castle. You will find it filed away 
in the drawer of that desk there.* 

Lord Emsworth adjusted his glasses and stared at the desk 
as if he expected it to do a conjuring-trick. 



z66 Leave it to Psmitb \ 

*1 will leave you to take what steps you please/ said Baxter* 
*Now that I am no longer in your employment, the thing does 
not concern me one way or another. But I thought you might 
be glad to hear the facts.* 

*Oh, 1 amV responded his lordship, still peering vaguely* 
*Oh, I am \ Oh, yes, yes, yes. Oh, yes, yes . . .’ 

‘Good-bye.* 

‘But, Baxter . . .* 

Lord Emsworth trotted out on to the landing, but Baxter 
had got off to a good start and was almost out of sight round 
the bend of the stairs, 

‘But, my dear fellow . . .* bleated his lordship plaintively 
over the banisters. 

From below, out on the dri\ e, came the sound of an auto- 
mobile getting into gear and moving off, than which no sound 
is more final. The great door of the castle closed with a soft 
but significant bang - as doors close when handled by an un- 
tipped butler. Lord Emsworth returned to the library to 
wrestle with his problem unaided. 

He was greatly disturbed. Apart fiom the fact that he dis- 
liked criminals and impostors as a class, it was a shock to him 
to learn that the particular criminal and impostor then in resi- 
dence at Blandings was the man for whom, brief as load been 
the duration of their acquaintance, be had conceived a warm 
affection. He was fond of Psmith. Psmith soothed him. If he 
had had to choose any member of his immediate circle for the 
role of criminal and impostor, he would have chosen Psmith last. 

He went to the window again and looked out. There was Uie 
sunshine, there were the birds, there were the hollyhocks, carna- 
tions, and Canterbury bells, all present and correct; but now they 
failed to cheet him. He was wondering dismally what on earth 
he was going to do. What did one do with criminals and impos- 
tors? Had ’em arrested, he supposed. But be shrank from the 
thought of arresting Psmith. It seemed so deuced unfriendly. 

He was still meditating gloomily when a voiCe spoke behind 
him. 

‘Good morning. I am looking for Miss llalliday. You have 



V smith Accepts 'Employment 267 

not seen hct by any chance? Ah, thete she is down there on 
the tetrace/ 

Lord Emsworth was aware of Psmith beside him at the 
window, waving cordially to Eve, who waved back. 

thought possibly,^ cocftinued Psmith, ‘that Miss Halliday 
would be in her little room yonder^ - he indicated the dummy 
book-shelves through which he had entered. ‘But I am glad 
to aee that the morning is so fine that she has given toil the 
miss-in-baulk. It is the right spirit/ said Psmith. ‘I like to 
see it.* 

Lord Emswerth peered at him nervously through his 
glasses. His embarrassment and his distaste for the task that 
lay before him increased as he scanned his companion in vain 
for those signs of villainy which all well-regulated criminals 
and impostors ought to exhibit to the eye of discernment. 

‘I am surprised to find you indoors,’ said Psmith, ‘on so 
glorious a morning. 1 should have supposed that you would 
have been down there among the shrubs, taking a good sniff 
at a hollyhock or something.’ 

Lord Emsworth braced himself for the ordeal. 

‘Er, my dear fellow • . . that is to say . . He paused. 
Psmith was regarding him almost lovmgly through his mono- 
cle, and it was becoming increasingly didicult to warm up to 
the work of denouncing him. 

‘You were observing . . said Psmith. 

Lord Emsworth uttered curious bu7.7ing noises. 

‘I have just parted from Baxter,’ he said at length, deciding 
to approach the subject in more roundabout fashion. 

‘ Indeed said Psmith courteously. 

‘Yes. Baxter has gone.’ 

‘For ever?’ 

‘ Er - yes.’ 

‘Splendid I’ said Psmith. ‘Splendid, splendid.’ 

Lord Emsworth removed his glasses, twiddled them on 
their cord, and replaced them on his nose. 

‘He made • . . He - er - the fact is, he made . . . Before he 
went Baxter made a most remarkable statement ... a charge 



268 


'Leave it to V smith 


. /. Well, in short, he made a very strange statement about 
you/ 

Psmith nodded gravely. 

*I had been expecting something of the kind/ he said, ‘He 
said, no doubt, that I was not really Ralston McTodd?’ 

His lordship’s mouth opened feebly. 

‘Er - yes/ he said. 

‘Tve been meaning to tell you about that/ said Psmith 
amiably. ‘ It is quite true. I am not Ralston McTodd.’ 

‘You - you admit itT 

‘I am proud of it.* 

Lord Emsworth drew himself up. He endeavoured to as- 
sume the attitude of stern censure wliich came so naturally to 
him in interviews with his son Frederick. But he met Psmith’s 
eye and sagged again. Beneath the solemn friendliness of 
Psmith’s gaze hauteur was impossible. 

‘Then what the deuce are you doing here under his name?^ 
he asked, placing his finger in statesmanlike fashion on the 
very nub of the problem, ‘I mean to say/ he went on, making 
his meaning clearer, ‘if you aren’t McTodd, why did you 
come here saying you were McTodd?* 

Psmith nodded slowly. 

‘The point is well taken,* he said. ‘I was expecting you to 
ask that question. Primarily - 1 want no thanks, but primarily 
I did it to save you embarrassment.* 

‘Save me embarrassment?* 

‘Precisely. When I came into the smoking-room of our 
mutual club that afternoon when you had been entertaining 
Comrade McTodd at lunch, 1 found him on the point of pass- 
ing out of your life for ever. It seems that he had taken um- 
brage to some slight extent because you had buzzed off to chat 
with the florist across the way instead of remaining with him. 
And, after we had exchanged a pleasant word or two, he legged 
it, leaving you short one modern poet. On vour return I 
stepped into the breach to save you from the inconvenience of 
having to return here without a McTodd of any description. 
No one, of course, could have been more alive dian myself to 



Psmith Accepts 'Empkjmnt 

the fact that I was merely a poor substitute, a sort of synthetic 
McTodd, but s^ll I considered that I was better than nothing, 
so I came along/ 

His lordship digested this explanation in silence. Then he 
seized on a magnificent point. 

‘Are you a member of the Senior Conservative Club?' 

‘Most certainly.' 

Why, then, dash it,' cried his lordship, paying to that august 
stronghold of respectability as striking a tribute as it had ever 
received, ‘if you’re a member of the Senior Conservative, you 
can't be a crimiral. Baxtei*'s an ass ! ' 

‘ Exactly.’ 

‘ Baxter would have it that you had stolen my sister’s necklace.' 

‘I can assure you that I have not got Lady Constance’s 
necklace.' 

‘Of course not, of course not, my dear fellow, I’m only tell- 
ing you what that idiot Baxter said. Thank goodness I’ve got 
rid of the fellow.’ A cloud passed over his now sunny face. 
‘Though, confound it, Connie was right about one thing.’ He 
relapsed into a somewhat moody silence. 

* Yes?’ said Psmith. 

‘Eh?’ said his lordship. 

‘You were saying that Lady Constance had been right about 
one thing.’ 

‘Oh, yes. She was saying that 1 should have a hard time 
finding another secretary as capable as Baxter.’ 

Psmith permitted himself to bestow an encouraging pat on 
his host’s shoulder. 

‘You have touched on a matter,’ he said, ‘which I had in- 
tended to broach to you at some convenient moment when 
you were at leisure. If you would care to accept my services, 
they are at your disposal.’ 

‘Eh?’ 

‘The fact is,’ said Psmith, ‘I am shortly about to be married, 
and it is more or less imperative that I connect with some job 
wliich will ensure a moderate competence. Why should I not 
bw)tnc your secretary?’ 



Leim it to Psmith 


270 

* You want to be my secretary?* 

‘You have unravelled my meaning exactly.*# 

‘But I've never had a married secretary/ 

‘I think that you would find a steady married man an im- 
provement on these wild, flower-pot-throwing bachelors. If 
it would help to influence your decision, I may say that my 
bride-to-be is Miss Halliday, probably the finest library-cata- 
loguist in the United Kingdom.* 

‘Eh? Miss Halliday? That girl down there?* 

‘No other,* said Psmith, waving fondly at Eve as she passed 
underneath the window. ‘In fact, the same.* 

‘But I like her,* said Lord Ensworth, as if stating an in- 
superable objection. 

‘Excellent.* 

‘ She*s a mce girl.* 

‘ I quite agree with you.* 

‘Do you think you could really look after things here like 
Baxter?* 

‘I am convinced of it.* 

‘ Then, my dear fellow - well, really I must say ... I must 
say . . . well, I mean, why shouldn’t you?* 

‘ Precisely,* said Psmith, ‘You have put in a nutshell the very 
thing I have been trying to express.* 

‘But have you had any experience as a secretary?* 

‘I must admit that I have not. You see, until recently I was 
more or less one of the idle rich. I toiled not, neither did I - 
except once, after a bump-supper at Cambridge - spin. My 
name, perhaps I ought to reveal to you, is Psmith - the p is 
silent - and until very recently I lived in affluence not far from 
the village of Much Middlefold in this county. My name is 
probably unfamiliar to you, but you may have heard of the 
house which was for many years the Psmith head-quarters - 
Corfby Hall.* 

Lord Emsworth jerked his glasses off his nos^. 

‘Corfby Halil Are you the son of the Smith who used to own 
Corfby Hall? Why, bless my soul, I knew your father welL* 
‘RcaUy?* 



¥ smith Accepts Employment 271 

* Yes. That is to say, I never met him/ 

'No?* 

' But I won the first prize for roses at the Shrewsbury Flower 
Show the year he won the prize for tulips/ 

‘It seems to draw us very close together/ said Psmith. 
'Why, my dear boy/ cried Lord Emsworth jubilantly, 'if 
you are really looking for a position of someTiind and would 
cate to be my secretary, nothing could suit me better. Nothing, 
nothing, nothing. Why, bless my soul . . / 

‘I am extremely obliged,’ said Psmith. 'And I shall en- 
deavour to give satisfaction. And surely, if a mere Baxter could 
hold down the job, it should be well within the scope of a 

Shropshire Psmith, I think so, I think so. And now, if you 

will excuse me, I think I will go down and tell the glad news 
to the little woman, if I may so describe her.’ 


Psmith made his way down the broad staircase at an even 
better pace than that recently achieved by the departing Bax- 
ter, for he rightly considered each moment of tliis excellent 
day wasted that was not spent in the company of Eve, He 
crooned blithely to himself as be passed through the hall, only 
pausing when, as he passed the door of the smoking-room, the 
Hon. Freddie Threepwood suddenly emerged. 

'Oh, I say I’ said Freddie. 'Just the fellow I wanted to see. 
I was going off to look for you.’ 

Freddie’s tone was cordiality itself. As far as Freddie was 
concerned, all that had passed between them in the cottage in 
the west wood last night was forgiven and forgotten. 

‘ Say on. Comrade Threepwood/ replied Psmith ; ‘ and, if I 
may offer the suggestion, make it snappy, for I would be else- 
where. I have man’s work before me,’ 

'Come over here.’ Freddie drew him into a far corner of the 
hall and lowered his voice to a whisper. 'I say, it’s all right, 
you know/ 

'Excellent!’ said Psmith. 'Splendid! This is great news. 
What is all right?’ 



27 Z Leope if to smith 

*I Vc just seen Uncle Joe. He’s going to cough up the money 
he promised me.’ 

*I congratulate you.’ 

* So now I shall be able to get into that bookie’s business and 
make a pile. And, I say, you remember my telling you about 
Miss Halliday.^’ 

•What was that?’ 

* Why, that I loved her, I mean, and all that.’ 

*Ah, yes.’ 

•Well, look here, between ourselves,’ said Freddie earnestly, 
‘the whole trouble all along has been that she thought I hadn’t 
any money to get married on. She didn’t actually say so in so 
many words, but you know how it is with women - you can read 
between the lines, if you know what I mean. So now every- 
thing’s going to be all right. I shall simply go to her and say, 
“ Well, what about it ? ” and - well, and so on, don’t you know? ’ 

Psmith considered the point gravely. 

•I see your reasoning. Comrade Threepwood,’ he said. ‘I 
can detect but one flaw in it.’ 

‘Flaw? What flaw?’ 

‘The fact that Miss Halliday is going to marry me? 

The Hon. Freddie’s jaw dropped. His prominent eyes be- 
came more prawn-likc. 

‘What!’ 

Psmith patted his shoulder commiscratingly. 

‘Be a man. Comrade Threepwood, and bite the bullet. 
These things will happen to the best of us. Some day you will 
be thankful that this has occurred. Purged in the holocaust of 
a mighty love, you will wander out into the sunset, a finer, 
broader man. . . • And now I must reluctantly tear myself 
away. I have an important appointment.’ He patted his 
shoulder once more. ‘If you would care to be a page at the 
wedding. Comrade Threepwood, I can honestly say that there 
is no one whom I would rather have in that capacity.’ 

And with a stately gesture of farewell, Psmith passed out on 
ft) file temce to join Eve. 


END